Black Rhino Group pays more than $12 million for Ballarat’s historic Craig’s Royal Hotel

Black Rhino Group, directed by Dave Tomsic and his wife, Deborah-Mathieson Tomsic, the daughter of prominent publican, Bruce, has paid more than $12 million for Ballarat’s imposing Craig’s Royal Hotel.

The renovated complex developed in 1853 at 10 Lydiard Street South is Black Rhino’s 15th Victorian asset.

Elsewhere in the regions it owns Seymour’s Railway Club Hotel and Victoria Hotel in Shepparton.

The balance of its portfolio, in Melbourne, includes Royal Park Hotel in Cheltenham, Hampton Park Tavern, Ivanhoe Hotel, Waterloo Cup Hotel in Moonee Ponds and Richmond Social on Swan Street, at border with Cremorne.

One of the dining rooms at Ballarat’s Craig’s Royal Hotel which underwent a multi-million dollar renovation between 2003-2010.

JLL’s Hotels and Hospitality vice president Will Connolly marketed Craig’s Royal Hotel for John and Mary Finnings which acquired it in 1999 and undertook a multi-million dollar renovation between 2003-2010.

The vendors also own The Settlement at Cranbourne, on the South Gippsland Highway, which includes a bistro, restaurant and bottle shop.

Of the Ballarat deal, Mr Finning said “it’s hard to see it go, but I am sure Dave and his team at the Black Rhino Group will enjoy it as much as we did”.

Craig’s Royal Hotel offers diversified income streams

Craig’s Royal Hotel derives income from 37 boutique guest suites, six function centre/conference rooms, two bars, The Gallery restaurant, Craig’s Café and 45 electronic gaming machine (EGM) licences.

Mr Connolly said the facility had undergone several modifications and renovations during its history “although none more so that by Mr Finning”.

The vendor’s seven year restoration including gutting and rebuilding the accommodation and revamping all the function rooms.

The venue is located on a 2080 sqm block at the south west corner of Bath Lane, one property holding from Sturt Street, walking distance to the train station.

Bruce Mathieson, directly or via stakes, including with his company’s Woolworths-partnered ALH Group, and PubCo Group, which is co-directed by another daughter, Jodi Grollo, controls more than 4600 Victorian EGMs.

Today we reported ALH Group picked up two Queensland venues, in Bowen and Goondiwindi, combined adding 47 EGMs.

Craig Royal Hotel at Ballarat’s heart

Developed in the gold rush era by Thomas Bath and originally known as Bath’s Hotel, 10 Lydiard Street was the first Ballarat roadhouse to be granted a liquor licence.

It was regarded as the town’s heart by an influx of gold prospectors who flocked to the region soon after it opened its doors.

In 1855, a royal commission into the Eureka Stockade uprising was carried out there.

The hotel sold in 1857 and within 10 years had been renamed Craig’s Royal.

Later, Dame Nellie Melba performed on its balcony.

Mark Twain, who stayed for a speaking tour in 1896, described the facility as “the pride of Ballarat”.

Other guests were former prime minister Robert Menzies and cricketer Donald Bradman.

Craig’s Royal Hotel includes 37 boutique guests suites.
A cellar turned dining room at the 167 year old Ballarat hotel.
The hotel occupies a 2080 square metre site at 10 Lydiard Street South.
Craig’s Royal Hotel’s dining spaces (above and below).

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and journalist, Marc is the publisher of

Marc Pallisco