The Great Northern Hotel will reopen today after a long and expensive effort to revive one of Newcastle’s landmark drinking holes.
The large corner bar fronting Scott and Watt streets and a new sports bar on Scott Street will throw open their doors on the eve of Melbourne Cup day.
An army of tradesmen was still working on the hotel fit-out on Friday, but owner’s representative Kurt Braune said on Sunday that both bars would be trading from Monday.
The Great Northern has been closed since 2015. Its 88 hotel rooms, which are due to open in the middle of next under the control of an as-yet-unnamed operator, have not been used for 25 years.
The downstairs renovation, which has been managed by new publicans Ben McBeath and Myles Plenty, retains the heritage-listed art deco details of the interior, including its leadlight windows and Aboriginal motifs.
The refurbishment project has been beset by legal battles, closures and building issues dating back to before the 1989 earthquake.
Mr Braune bought the hotel in 2003, lodged plans for its restoration the following year but sold it in 2013.
The new owner, Sydney developer Bass Elhashem, revived the restoration in 2015 and appointed Mr Braune to oversee the project.
“It has taken us three hard years to arrive at this date, but we have overcome every challenge,” Mr Braune said.
The two publicans will now turn their attention to restoring the Great Northern’s bohemian first-floor bar and building a new roof-top bar and restaurant.
Mr McBeath, who also runs Sydney’s ArtHouse Hotel, said he was still concerned about parking shortages in the CBD but was hopeful the start of tram services early next year would encourage people to return.
“Time will tell. But if you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have been fretting about the roads opening up, but now I’ve seen it, it’s transformed the entire city,” he said.
“Whatever tourism decides to fall on our doorstep, they’re going to discover Newcastle is one of – if not the – best cities to visit.
“It’s just got so much more to offer now than anywhere I’ve been around Australia. It’s a place to call home now.”
Mr Braune said the reopening was another chapter in the city’s transformation.
“The whole city has come of age,” he said.
“When I first became involved in 2003, there was a lot of issues. It was a raw, rough sort of town. Shops were closed.
“The development that’s happened in the area, and the huge amount of infrastructure, the light rail, the uni buildings, and the upgrade generally of the town, I think it’s turned the corner.
“Whatever pain we’ve gone through to get to this point – and it wasn’t fun – the end justifies the means.”