NSW pub baron and Financial Review Rich Lister Arthur Laundy has taken a swipe at COVID restrictions in his home state after selling the Swansea Hotel in Lake Macquarie for about $20 million.
Mr Laundy, owner of Laundy Hotels which operates more than 20 venues in NSW including the Bells Hotel in Woolloomooloo and The Oxford Hotel in Drummoyne, said restrictions imposed by the Berejiklian government had “really bashed us hard”.
“I know things are tough for the government, but these restrictions are too tough,” he told The Australian Financial Review. “You give a gatekeeper a whistle and they turn into a general major.”
Mr Laundy said Laundy Hotels and other groups had struggled under the restrictions, which came into effect in mid-July following outbreaks at the Crossroads Hotel, Picton Hotel, Macarthur Tavern and Wests League Club.
They include a 10-person limit per booking or table, a cap of 300 people in a venue at any one time, and the requirement to have a dedicated and highly visible COVID Safe Hygiene Marshall in place to oversee social distancing, cleaning and hygiene.
Pubs in NSW must also comply with the one-person-for-every-four-square- metres rule and implement a COVID-Safe plan.
Mr Laundy estimated takings were down 15-20 per cent over the first few months of the new financial year.
“It’s been an ordinary start to the year for us,” he said.
Despite the tough conditions, Mr Laundy said he had been reluctant to sell the Swansea Hotel, which was bought by local North Coast group Hunter Hotels, expanding its portfolio to nine venues.
He said it was a family decision to sell. Mr Laundy shares ownership of the Swansea Hotel with his daughter, Justine, and son-in-law Nick Tindell.
“I’m not really a seller. I think there is a bright future in the Swansea Hotel.”
The large format hotel at 196 Pacific Highway has 24-hour trading approval and includes 30 gaming machines and a bistro.
“The people we sold it to will do very well. They are based in that area. It’s a bit far away from us, given we are based in Sydney,” Mr Laundy said.
Why Laundy Hotels has its plate full developing three new venues, Mr Laundy was in the market for acquisitions “should the right ones come up,” he said. “I’m only 79,” he said.
HTL Property agents Dan Dragicevich and Blake Edwards brokered the off-market sale of the Swansea Hotel.
The brokerage has sold over $200 million-worth of NSW Coast pubs in the past two years with yields contracting by 150 basis points over that time.
“We remain encouraged by the buoyancy regarding market activity over recent months, and the pronounced snap-back in positive market sentiment,” Mr Dragicevich said.
“Whilst Swansea was concluded off-market, we are preparing a number of national public campaigns to run before the end of the year; and we do so with great confidence regarding market depth and capacity.”
Last week, HTL Property sold Darwin’s Parap Tavern on behalf of long-time owners the Dowling family to Charter Hall’s Long WALE Investment Partnership for $19.7 million on a yield of 5.65 per cent.
The single-storey, purpose-built tavern with an adjoining drive through a BWS bottle shop outlet is leased to Woolworths-backed ALH Group.
In other pub news, Guy Farrands took over as CEO and managing director of the country’s biggest pub landlord, ASX-listed ALE Property Group on Thursday.
He replaced Andrew Wilkinson, who was ALE’s CEO for the past 17 years, dating back to its ASX listing in 2003.
Leading property coverage delivered to your inbox
Sign up to our new weekly Inside Property newsletter