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The Royal Paddington renovation sparks historic hotel stoush

Jul 14, 2023

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Demolition works inside a historic pub at Five Ways in Paddington are under investigation by a local council, as its owner seeks permission to build a new pokies room.

Pub company PHMG wants Woollahra Municipal Council to lift a stop-work order it imposed last year after PHMG demolished part of the 130-year-old Royal Hotel in Paddington.

The owners of the Royal Hotel in Paddington want to build a new gaming room, but were issued a stop-work order last year. Credit: Rhett Wyman

A compliance inspection prompted by a complaint to the council found demolition works had been undertaken to the walls, floor and ceiling of the bottle shop area.

PHMG chief operating officer Regan Shepherd said the renovations were meant to expand space in the ground floor bar area by moving gaming facilities to a less prominent location at the back of the pub.

"The current area designated for our TAB falls short in accommodating the number of patrons who wish to utilise it or watch the sports events we broadcast," he said.

PHMG's own heritage consultants noted damage to the heritage-significant brick masonry wallsbut said the demolition works had not "engendered any negative impact on the site's heritage significance".

Shepherd said in a statement that the internal works had not caused damage to the building.

"We have taken great care to ensure the preservation of any heritage items," he said. "The storms that occurred last year did cause damage to the hotel, including to the bottle shop area."

Shepherd said residents among its frequent patrons "eagerly anticipate" the completion of the renovations.

However, the hotel has not always had a happy relationship with its neighbours. Last year it was found to have "unduly disturbed the quiet and good order of the neighbourhood".

In December, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority said the hotel had to hire a security guard to patrol nearby streets to ensure patrons did not loiter in the vicinity, and it had to monitor noise levels from the venue.

A spokeswoman for community group The Paddington Society said the pub's plans were grim.

"The spaces will be dark and featureless. They don't inspire confidence that the new areas will be attractive or welcoming," she said.

"The proposal to replace the bottle shop by expansion of the gambling component of the pub is inappropriate – it's not in the public interest."

Built in 1888, the Royal Hotel is one of several heritage-listed pubs in Paddington.

The Inner West Council last year announced it wanted to give heritage protection to 27 local pubs to protect the area's "famous pub culture" and stop potential redevelopment.

The hotel and its interiors are listed as a local item of environmental heritage by the council and the building is listed on the National Trust register (NSW).

The hotel is also located in the Paddington Heritage Conservation Area, which is also on the National Trust register (NSW). Its owner PHMG – a pub company established in 2014 by second-generation publican Mitchell Waugh – also owns The Toxteth in Glebe, The Marrickville Ritz and Minskys Hotel in Cremorne.

Woollahra councillor Harriet Price said it was disappointing that the hotel's heritage status appeared to have been ignored.

"Demolishing heritage-protected interiors to make way for a soulless gambling den is troubling in the extreme," she said. "I am concerned that an application to increase the amount of poker machines may also follow."

Price said harsher penalties should be imposed on flagrant breaches of planning rules "particularly when preserving our heritage is at stake".

"Fines are sometimes imposed, but their deterrent value is minimal," she said. "Some developers see such ‘punishment’ as a mere inconvenient cost of doing business."

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