HOTEL AUSTRALASIA: Heritage pub gets a lifeline

Last Wednesday, Bega Valley Shire Council all but sealed the fate of the iconic Hotel Australasia, with councillors voting to approve a Development Application to demolish it and built a supermarket on the site.

Less than 24 hours later, the site developer met with local builder and save-the-pub campaigner Peter Whiter, to make an offer to sell off the front 15-metres, including the original 1906 facade currently hiding under a 1950s do-over.

Retired Eden Retravision owners Graeme and Sheldon Wykes, along with their wives Anne and Robyn, are now working with Whiter and local historian and heritage-expert Angela George, to not only stitch together an offer to buy the portion of the pub on offer for $500,000, but to raise sufficient funds to restore it and turn it into a profitable business proposition.

It was Graeme Wykes who sowed the idea of selling off the front part of the pub to developer Rodney Thompson.

“I put the suggestion to Rodney a few weeks ago,” Graeme Wykes said on Wednesday.

“He listened, said ‘thanks very much’, and that was it.”

The developer has given the group a deadline of two weeks from last Thursday to do the deal.

Now the Wykes, along with Peter Whiter and Angela George, are working around the clock to prepare a solid financial and business case for the front 15-metres of the pub.

The Wykes are also making a sizeable contribution to the purchase.

“We have an opportunity to get this,” Graeme Wykes said.

“Now we need people to show this Council and the State and Federal Governments that we are serious.

“Our aim is to return it to the 1906 façade if that’s at all possible.

“That’s what we are aiming at.

“We will be keeping the upstairs as well. We are looking for people who want to get actively involved in investing in this project.

“We need minimum investment commitments of $20,000 and upwards.

“Only the community can now make this project go forward by supporting it.

“There will be a return on investment; we’re not looking for donations,” he said.

The buy-out group has already held preliminary meetings with key council staff, and will meet with general manager, Leanne Barnes, today (Thursday).

The discussions will be ongoing in the lead up to the buy-out deadline of August 14.

“We look like we’ve got a viable building, we want to make it into a commercial building, possibly including a wine bar, art gallery, and some other community organisation,” Mr Wykes said.