Historically significant WA watering hole ready for new custodian

The historically significant pub has been extensively renovated. Image: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale
The historically significant pub has been extensively renovated. Image: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

Publicans Mike and Elizabeth Roszak have “put up their Duke’s”, listing their old Federation pub in the regional WA town of Northam for sale.

The heritage-listed Duke’s Inn in Western Australia’s Avon Valley, about 100kms east-northeast of Perth, has undergone a renaissance in recent years with a significant renovation to the pub as well as the former stables, which have been transformed into beautiful accommodation quarters.

Constructed in Federation filigree-style architecture in 1906 to take advantage of the expanded eastern railway line around west Northam, the pub opened the following year as McCarthy’s Hotel – the eighth and last hotel built in the town in the 1900s.

Heritage Council of WA documents say the outbuildings, including the former stables and latrines, have cultural heritage significance as one of the few remaining stable facilities linked to hotel accommodation in WA.

“The stables behind the hotel were important as the hotel had its own horse cab, which would meet the passenger trains at the old Northam station in the 1920s,” heritage documents state.

“The stables have the potential to reveal archaeological evidence pertinent to the use of the place; and, the stables are a rare, largely intact and particularly fine example of their type associated with a hotel, and indicative of a way of life no longer practiced.”

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Old meets new at this trendy watering hole. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

Selling agent Radar Luttrell, who is asking $2.79 million, said recent investment in the Duke’s Inn over the past few years had taken the country watering hole to the next level.

“The sale is walk-in, walk-out, freehold. There’s nothing more to do,” Mr Luttrell said.

“It’s an old Federation pub itself and all the rooms have been built over the last five years. It has a great trade and it’s very popular in Northam.

“The accommodation out the back is called ‘The Stables’ and dates back to the horse and coach days, that’s where the horses stayed the night. Northam was basically the first stop on the old coach run back in the day.”

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The pub maintains its Federation charm. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

He said while the hotel had been successful, the Roszaks have decided to call it a day.

“This was a passive investment and the owners ended up operating it, but they are looking to put it in the hands of another successful operator.”

Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods said regional pubs and hotels had endured pandemic-related challenges and their long-term viability relied on interstate travel actively resuming as soon as possible.

“The pandemic has affected regional pubs and hotels in a range of ways over the past year, and most hospitality business owners will confirm there have been both challenges and silver linings,” Mr Woods said.

“With international borders shut and interstate travel banned for most of 2020, many regional venues have experienced a boom in intrastate visitation, helping counter the loss in revenue from traditional markets.

“The most common challenge that hotels, bars, pubs and restaurants are now encountering across regional WA and the greater Perth area is the lack of available workers – this problem is restricting hours of service and placing pressure on existing staff.”

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Aussie pubs are facing a tough time post-pandemic. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

REA Group economist Anne Flaherty said the number of deferred and abandoned hotel and tourism projects had surged last year and remained high in 2021.

“A lot of developers have changed their minds about the viability of developments so we’re seeing a lot of developers pull out of the hotel sector,” Ms Flaherty said.

“I think it’s because of the fact that the international border, not only is it still closed, but when it reopens possibly mid-next year, the number of international visitors to Australia is still going to be below that historical average.

“Even though we do see an increase in domestic tourism, it still means they’re going to have less tourists than they have in the past.

“Saying that, a regional pub in Western Australia will probably appeal to a different market. Domestic tourists are more likely to go to regional areas than international tourists and if we do have more domestic tourism happening then maybe that area could benefit.”