Black Rhino buys Ballarat’s Craig’s Royal

A Craig Royal Hotel dining room.

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 Craig’s Royal Hotel.

The c1853 renovated complex, 10 Lydiard Street South, is the hospitality group’s 15th Victorian asset.

Elsewhere in the regions it holds Seymour’s Railway Club Hotel and Victoria Hotel at 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, near Cremorne.

JLL’s Hotels and Hospitality vice president Will Connolly marketed Craig’s Royal Hotel for John and Mary Finnings who acquired it 21 years ago and undertook a multi-million dollar renovation between 2003-2010.

The vendors also own The Settlement on the South Gippsland Highway at Cranbourne, 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”.

Diversified income streams

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

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

The last seven year restoration included gutting and rebuilding the accommodation and revamping all the function space.

On 2080 sqm at the south west corner of Bath Lane, the property is one lot from Sturt St, and walking distance to the train station (story continues below).

Mr Mathieson controls over 4600 Victorian EGMs, either directly or via stakes, such as with Woolworths-partnered ALH Group and PubCo Group, which is co-directed by another daughter, Jodi Grollo.

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

Craig Royal Hotel

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

It was regarded as the town’s centre by gold prospectors.

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

The hotel sold in 1857 and within 10 years was Craig’s Royal.

Later, Dame Nellie Melba performed on its balcony.

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

Other guests include 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 print journalist, Marc is the publisher of