Pub patriarch Arthur Laundy purchases The Bells Hotel in Woolloomooloo

Pub patriarch Arthur Laundy purchases The Bells Hotel in Woolloomooloo
Pub patriarch Arthur Laundy purchases The Bells Hotel in Woolloomooloo

The veteran pub family patriarch Arthur Laundy has bought the The Bells Hotel in Woolloomooloo, swooping pre-auction as an acquisitive battle continues between rival Sydney publicans across Sydney.

The price guidance had been around $15 million, highlighting the frothiness in hotel prices over recent years.

The historic 1920s pub was sold before Thursday's scheduled auction to the Laundy family which now owns almost 30 hotels across NSW, including venues such as the Watsons Bay Hotel, the Woolwich Pier near Hunters Hill and the Quarryman's Hotel in Pyrmont.

Laundy recently expressed concern about "silly prices", signalling he'd be steering clear of what he called a "crazy market", but The Bells was irresistible.

Rival hotelier Justin Hemmes had been pinpointed as also having an likely interest in buying the pub.

The Laundy family net worth is put at $500 million while Hemmes' is estimated to preside over a $950 million hospitality and liquor empire.

The 77 year old Laundy is credited as heading the biggest independent hotel operator in New South Wales, which includes the neighbouring Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel which cost $20 million two years ago.

It was the Miles family who called time at The Bells after initially securing the leasehold in 1976.

The family bought Tooth out in 1990.

The pub at 1 Bourke Street was known for legendary matriarch Lil Miles, who worked behind the bar until age 96.

Erin Petersen, from the Miles family, said there had been a number of pre-auction offers.

“The family has loved the 45 years at Bells and while it is the end of an era for us we are happy to sell to Arthur, a long time local publican, who we are sure will only be an asset to further develop the potential of our much-loved pub” said Petersen.

The sale was secured by Andrew Jolliffe who has sold more than $1.75 billion of pubs in the past six years including the Centennial in Woollahra on behalf of the Medich family to Merivale's Justin Hemmes.

The Laundy family company, which has been in pubs since the 1940s, includes scions Stuart, the socialite publican who briefly won Sophie Monk's heart on The Bachelorette, and the politician Craig, who has been the Liberal member of Reid since 2013.

Arthur Laundy typically fronts up every day at the Laundy headquarters in the Twin Willows Hotel, built in 1963 by his late father at Bass Hill in Sydney's south-west after the land cost 38,000 pounds. 

The family pub business had began when Arthur's parents Arthur Sr and Veronica took on the Sackville Hotel at Rozelle in 1945.

It was in 1969 when young Arthur and wife-to-be Margaret took the reins of the family business, which was then just two hotels including the Twin Willows.

Jolliffe noted that interest in the Bells, a prominently positioned asset, was drawn from a wide spectrum of well-known hospitality operatives and commercial property specialists.

There have been four other hotel properties in the past few weeks, Jolliffe noted.

Sydney's biggest publicans include the Waugh family, the Ryan family, Peter Calligeros, the De Angelis family, the Arnout brothers, and Pat and Angela Gallgaher.

Hemmes and his family have ownership of 70 hotels, restaurants and venues around Sydney.

The sale comes on the eve of hotel giant Redcape’s billion-dollar stock market listing later this month.

The Bells Hotel, located adjacent to the Woolloomooloo Finger Wharf, features a main bar, bistro, courtyard, accommodation spanning the entire first level, and eight electronic gaming machines.

There had been a pub on the 340 square metre Bourke Street corner address since the 1860s.

The original ale house was called Punches servicing the workers of the wharves.

The Miles family lost a family member at the hotel in 2004 when Shane Miles, died from massive head injuries after being hit in the head with a bar stool during a wild brawl at his family's pub.

This article first appeared in The Daily Telegraph.


Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

Pub Woolloomooloo

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