A hotel built during the Victorian gold rush that has played host to countless members of royalty as well as celebrities including Mark Twain and Dame Nellie Melba is on the market for the first time in 20 years.
Craig’s Royal Hotel, built in 1853, is being offered to market via an expressions of interest campaign, with early interest in excess of $13 million, according to JLL’s Hotels and Hospitality vice-president Will Connolly.
“This really is a hotel like no other,” Mr Connolly said. “In those early days it would have been the epicentre of Victoria as it was one of the first major buildings in Ballarat. It was the place to be seen.”
In addition to a 37-room boutique accommodation offering, a coffee shop and restaurant, the hotel comes with a lucrative gaming licence.
“Not only does Craig’s Royal offer arguably Victoria’s most elegant boutique accommodation, but it also a business that provides a foundation of gaming income generated by 45 EGMs [electronic gaming machines], which in a market as tightly held as Victoria’s will help draw a wide range of buyer profile.”
The heritage-listed hotel’s current owners John and Mary Finning bought the property in 1999.
The Finning’s extensively renovated the hotel between 2003 and 2010, embarking on a multimillion-dollar redevelopment which included rebuilding the accommodation and developing the restaurant, which is currently operating as the Gallery.
They plan on retaining their other hotel interest, the Settlement hotel, in Cranbourne.
“We are really proud of taking what was a pretty rundown pub and turning it into the destination that it currently is,” Mr Finning said. “We will be sad to see it go but it is time for someone else to enjoy it as much as we have.”
Mr Connolly expects the property at 10 Lydiard Street to prove popular with existing hotel operators and investors seeking a flagship property with strong name recognition.
“The buyer will be purchasing a brand rather than a hotel – perhaps someone who is looking for a flagship property for their portfolio,” Mr Connolly said.
A truly royal hotel
Craig’s – first known as the Ballarat and then Bath’s Hotel, after its original owner Thomas Bath – was the first hotel in Ballarat to be granted a liquor licence and subsequently served as the backdrop to significant events in Australian history.
Bath sold the property in 1857 to Walter Craig and the hotel changed its name to Craig’s. The hotel became Craig’s Royal Hotel following a 1867 visit from Prince Alfred, the first member of the royal family to visit Ballarat.
The Melbourne Racing Club and the Ballarat Horticultural Society were both formed at the property, and in 1855 the royal commission into the Eureka Stockade uprising was conducted there. Dame Nellie Melba famously performed from the hotel’s balcony, while Mark Twain stayed for several nights during a speaking tour in 1895.
Along with numerous dukes and duchesses, other famous guests include former prime minister Robert Menzies and cricketing legend Donald Bradman.
Expressions of interest for Craig’s Royal Hotel open on November 6 and close at 4pm on December 5.
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