The Victoria Hotel in the border town of Rutherglen has reopened after a four-year hiatus, following a major redevelopment by new owners Kate and Matt Halpin.

The first phase of the multi-million dollar redevelopment of the Victorian High Country Hotel has been completed, with a soft opening for the local community in December. Rutherglen locals have been waiting patiently for the pub to re-open, since it was closed in 2020. The Halpins acquired the freehold in May 2021.

The owners engaged regional-Victorian firm Porter Architects to work on the design, with construction by Hotel Renovations and Maintenance from Melbourne. A number of north-east Victorian and Border trades were used throughout the build.

The overhauled venue pairs the heritage architecture from the buildings 1800s origins with modern accents. The new space includes trans-seasonal dining zones for more than 150 people, an expansive dog-friendly beer garden and meetings/events facilities. Six all-king boutique suites are also set to open by March, with another eight to open later in the year.

Venue director Kate Halpin says the re-envisioned Victoria Hotel is a modern interpretation of a traditional country pub.

“Understanding we’re simply the custodians for this chapter in The Victoria’s history, our intention has been to respect the legacy of her history while creating a place to be enjoyed by many more generations.

“We’re cognisant of the integral role local pubs play within the community, be it for creating connections, offering solace in times of crisis or as place’s for celebrating life’s key moments. We hope we’ve created a place that instils a sense of community pride, and where locals and visitors feel equally at home.

“It has been our privilege to reinvent The Victoria, and we’re delighted to invite guests to enjoy her. She now belongs to the community.”

Ex-Stokehouse Pasta & Bar chef Brendan Anderson leads the kitchen, with a Mediterranean-inspired, flame-focused menu that centres around local produce. Similarly, the drinks list focuses on north-eat Victorian wineries and locally distilled spirits.

After a long-wait, locals have flocked to The Victoria Hotel.

“We very deliberately wanted to share The Victoria with the local community first as a gesture of thanks to the town who have so warmly supported us throughout the project. The performance since opening has far exceeded our forecasts,” stated Halpin.

“While we still have some enhancements to make regarding our offer and operations, we’re delighted the venue is resonating with the guests we set out to create it for.”

Following the completion of the primary building, the operators have additional plans for further developments.

Melbourne pub renovations

Hotel renovation reveals have also been announced in greater Melbourne, with AVC’s latest renovation project, Sunbury Hotel reopening last week. In Melbourne’s outer north-west, the Ball Court Hotel was reopened on 24 January after a $3.8m renovation added a new beer garden to the venue, as well as revamping the sports bar. The bistro was also extended, and the menu refreshed.

Ball Court Hotel venue manager Jess McNab is excited to be welcoming  locals back to one of Sunbury’s most beloved pubs.

“Our neighbourhood pub now has a new lease on life, these new and refreshed spaces mean there’s more for the community to love and we can’t wait to see everyone enjoy them for years to come!”

The new beer garden at Ball Court Hotel includes its own bar, outdoor seating and a kids play area.

Closer to the city, Preston Hotel has added a new rooftop bar, Lulu Bar, to its offering. With city views, its expected to be a popular hang-out spot once it officially opens on 9 February. Accessible through the rear car park of The Preston Hotel, Lulu Bar is a refined alternative to the old-school stylings of the rest of the pub below.

Created as a gesture to the local community, owner Ben Niall comments: “Preston and its surrounds are a beautiful thriving community and I wanted to create something they are proud of, that is theirs – their Siglo, their Naked for Satan, their iconic, cool meeting place where they can go a bit Gatsby.”

Featuring a variety of casual timber dining tables, benches and sofas, the vertical garden imparts a relaxed European charm, while leaning into the edgy aesthetic of Melbourne’s art scene with a mural by local artist Sebastian Fransz. Inside, the interior cocktail bar offers a more intimate experience, with its matte rouge walls, vibrant artwork, and softly lit ambiance.

Lulu Bar’s atmosphere will be created by DJs and curated playlists filtering through the bar at scheduled times, as well as a transition to indoor music, providing an ideal space for those looking to extend their evening without the need to relocate. Seeking to engage the local community, Lulu Bar will host rooftop cinema evenings, wine tasting experiences, provide a platform for local art exhibitions, as well as take private bookings for parties and events.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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