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Pub crawl: Multiple hotels change hands in post-COVID shakeout

“We’re going to close doors, rebrand and refurbish.”

The newly named Collingwood Hotel will reopen after a short three-week closure next month with a “fast-paced and progressive” menu, he said.

Mr George would not disclose what the Burns’ leasehold sold for but said most venues were taken on a “walk-in and opportunity” basis.

“People are willing to pay up to $500,000 for opportunities they can reinvent and relaunch,” he said. “Low interest rates also help.”

When asked what pubs are selling, CRE Brokers’ Lloyd Nunn reels off a list of seven venues which settled with new owners last week.

The Gasometer leasehold changed hands for $350,000 to the owners of the Bombay Rock music venue in Brunswick. The Gem, another Collingwood stalwart, sold for $355,000 to the publicans behind the John Curtin Hotel in Carlton.

Mr George said the Foresters Beer and Music Hall, also in Collingwood, changed hands in an offmarket transaction, sold by same owner who several years ago offloaded The Terminus in Fitzroy North.

The Laurel Hotel in Ascot Vale and Vale Bar in the same suburb have also found new owners. And the Micawber Tavern in Belgrave, both the business and freehold, sold for $2 million.

Mr Nunn attributes the string of recent deals to “pent-up demand”.

Melbourne venues that managed to survive beyond November last year, following a series of damaging lockdowns, are now “doing extremely well”, he said. There has been a rush to snare good venues.

“No one is travelling internationally or interstate at the moment. They have spare cash and can’t buy a new car so they’re going out a lot more and spending,” he said.

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“Pubs are doing very well indeed. The only problem they have is staffing. Chefs are getting poached. Casual staff are difficult to get on Friday and Saturday nights particularly, as there are no backpackers or students anymore.”

Wages have gone up and the introduction of single touch payroll linked to JobKeeper has driven out cash-in-hand work. Most staff are now paid award wages on the books, as well as super and workcover, Mr Nunn said.

“Pre-COVID everyone was under-paying staff. Now the average full-time hospitality worker is much better off,” he said.

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