Iconic North Melbourne pub calls lasts drinks

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Brendan Rees

North Melbourne’s iconic Court House Hotel which dates back to the 19th century is up for sale, offering an “endless array of refurbishment and repositioning opportunities”.

The two-level building which occupies the prominent corner of Errol and Queensberry streets has been on the market since the end of January with the “campaign going quite well”, according to JLL’s Will Connolly.

The hotel, which is regarded as the “local landmark”, dates back to the 1860s but is understood to have been rebuilt in 1935.

While the pub no longer serves food due to the impacts of the pandemic, the dining room has been transformed into a theatre with shows being held every Friday and Saturday night by improvised theatre company Impro Melbourne, with the main bar used for drinks.

Mr Connolly said the hotel had been family-owned for many years and it had “just come time for their retirement and exit from the industry”.

He said interest from buyers included owner-occupiers, investors, and potential developers, with demand for hotel assets, especially within metro Melbourne, are as “high as they have ever been.”.

The building features a main bar area which is used for theatre show nights, a separate dining room, a large commercial kitchen and back-of-house facilities, a basement cellar, a large balcony, and a rear courtyard.

Mr Connelly said while potential buyers had not expressed any plans for the hotel, it’s future could be an up-market hospitality venue, traditional retail, office or residential.

He said the triple fronted site also provided for a range of development opportunities which is walking distance to the CBD, Queen Victoria Market and the hospital and university precincts.

While the owners and tenants declined to be interviewed, the property is advertised as having “stood the test of time” with the “significant potential to reposition the building into a prime retail offering”.

The building is being sold with a general liquor licence with expressions of interest closing March 2.

According to the Hotham History Project, a community group with an interest in the history of North and West Melbourne, the Court House Hotel was originally owned by Samuel Lancashire, mayor of the municipality in 1869.

 

Old timber floors, a view of Errol St from the corner window, even the narrow stairway up, it all creates a sense of being hidden away in a garret somewhere, about to witness something special.

 

It has stood as one of North Melbourne’s most recognisable pubs with the North Melbourne Library also holding an image of the building from 1870 – with the current building believed to have been constructed around 1935, according to the North and West Melbourne conservation study in 1983.

Artistic director of Impro Melbourne Katherine Weaver said the organisation had “loved being part of the North Melbourne community” as well as enjoying the support from the Court House Hotel during the past six years.

“It’s a blessing to be able to work with the Courthouse Hotel to put on our productions. As a not-for-profit theatre, our budgets are always tight so to find somewhere that we can collaborate and bring people in and have artistic creativity has been amazing,” she said.

“The last two months of being in the Court House, we have had shows every Friday and Saturday night and workshops on every other day.” 

“For the month of March, we have the upstairs theatre coming alive, or should I say dead, with a zombie musical Zombsical directed by Tim Redmond.

“Impro Melbourne is hoping to be able to stay in North Melbourne and are currently talking to real estate agents about rentals in the area.”

Mr Redmond said the upstairs room was “a lovely, secluded space – perfect for creating intimate theatre”.

“Old timber floors, a view of Errol St from the corner window, even the narrow stairway up, it all creates a sense of being hidden away in a garret somewhere, about to witness something special.” •

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