Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel to sell again for $100m-plus

Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel is on the market again.

Australia’s wealthiest publicans and property investors are lining up to make the deal of a lifetime as the Beach Hotel in Byron Bay, developed by Paul Hogan sidekick John Cornell, hits the block for more than $100 million.

A sale at that level would make it far and away the country’s most expensive pub property and fuel further interest in the NSW sector, where close to a $1bn of hotels have sold in the past 12 months.

Cornell, fondly known as “Strop”, built the Bay Street hotel in 1990 for about $9 million.

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Excitement is growing in the pub industry at the prospect of a new owner taking control of the iconic property.

The pub has been held by a few famous owners since it was built and last changed hands two years ago when the freehold alone was sold by racing-car driver Max Twigg to a Melbourne-based private equity firm backed by the wealthy Liberman family for about $70 million.

But that purchase, by Impact Investment Group, was only for the passive freehold stake and now the entire operation, including the chance to run and even expand the famous pub, is on the block.

The “Beachie” remains the heart and soul of Byron Bay. Melbourne restaurateurs and hospitality figures John and Lisa van Haandel have owned the business side since 2007 and are keen to emphasise they will stay in the area as their ties go back to the 1970s when they bought one of the original whaler’s cottages at Belongil Beach.

They could even stay on as managers of the pub, where Impact last year won plaudits for ripping out the pokies.

Byron Bay Beach Hotel

The Beach Hotel is Byron Bay’s largest pub.

“There’s no place on earth like Byron Bay and we’ve been privileged enough to own one of the very best businesses in this spiritual, eclectic and internationally recognised township for over ten years,” van Haandel says.

Over the past 12 years his daughter, Elke van Haandel, has run the pub.

“We’re local, we love Byron Bay, we support the community and we’re excited to bring our vision for the evolution of the Beachie to new owners, with so much scope for business growth,” van Haandel says.

But other operators are also expected to line up for a crack at running the sprawling beach property. Operators would likely team up with deep-pocketed investment funds looking for alternatives to the overheated commercial property market.

Situated with more than 100 metres of frontage overlooking Byron’s main beach, the hotel is on a 4585sq m site area and includes 25 luxury boutique hotel rooms and a swimming pool, a large and vibrant pub with extensive beer gardens, a restaurant, function spaces and a bottle shop.

JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group is handling the sale of the property after fielding a number of unsolicited approaches, although billionaire entertainment tsar Justin Hemmes last week denied he was buying the pub when it was not on the market.

The once laid-back NSW township has gained a touch of Hollywood allure, with film stars Matt Damon, Chris Hemsworth and Margot Robbie forming ties in the area.

JLL’s John Musca, Tom Gibson and Tom Gleeson will handle the sale. Musca dubs the hotel a “magical asset” offering operating scale and a lifestyle that could not be replicated and suggests mining, software or property tycoons may chase the pub.

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