Government-built pub in Qld for sale: “Actually made money”
Australia’s only government-built pub has been listed for sale in Far North Queensland, and there isn’t a single bureaucrat in sight.
The heritage-listed Babinda State Hotel was constructed by the Queensland Government between 1916 and 1917 at a cost of 18,000 pounds, or roughly the equivalent of $2 million in 2022.
Given Australia’s current inflation rate, that number would be higher.
It was built by the Labor government at the time, led by Thomas Ryan, at a time when wartime restrictions, food shortages and high prices prompted the establishment of state-run businesses to compete with private sector business, according to the Queensland Heritage Register.
At the time, the state government operated railways and post offices as monopolies.
“The first foray into state enterprises was the establishment of the state butchers shops in 1915,” the register said.
“This was followed by the establishment of state pastoral stations, fish supply shops, saw mills, produce agencies, cold stores and mines.
“Despite the good intentions of the government, the state enterprises lost money except for their one success story, the State Hotel at Babinda.”
It was built to counter the effects of the Sugar Works Act of 1911, which prohibited the sale of intoxicating liquor in sugar growing areas, which at the time was vast majority of the east coast.
Two existing hotel licences were revoked and the owners compensated, but their closure left the town with a lack of accommodation for workers.
“To address this problem the State Government built the first and only state owned and run hotel in Queensland,” the register says.
“As it was run by the government, the hotel was also permitted to sell alcohol.”
It opened its doors to the public in 1917, and was initially operated by the Home Department and then transferred to State Enterprises.
“Unlike nearly all other State Enterprises, the State Hotel actually made money, an ironic line in the register says.
It, along with other state enterprises, was sold by the new Country Party Government in 1929.
The hotel was renamed Babinda Hotel after it was purchased by a Brisbane buyer.
Since that period the hotel has had a succession of owners but has continued to operate as a hotel with accommodation facilities, and has undergone few alterations.
Now listed for sale for $3.6 million, the iconic hotel is being marketed by Babinda Real Estate.
The 3564sq m, two-title property sits in the middle of the main street, and was officially heritage-listed in 2002.
The sale includes the hotel and a 1884sq m block of and a second title with a three-bedroom house and a 1679sq m block of land.
“The magnificent timber, two-storey hotel building includes restaurant, cafe, function rooms, main bar with deck overlooking the main street, accommodation wings and staff quarters, with wrap around timber verandas,” the listing says.
There is a fully licenced bar, bottle shop, restaurant, cafe, pool tables, gaming facilities, a commercial kitchen, dining room, underfloor cellar and more.
There are six bedrooms on the lower level, 10 upstairs and a four bedroom main residence.
It is being sold as a vacant possession.