Lawler, Waugh nab Newcastle pub

The Cooks Hill venue includes a sports bar and beer garden.

Sydney based pub investors Ben Lawler and Ashton Waugh are paying a speculated $25 million for Newcastle’s Commonwealth Hotel.

The freehold going concern was offered by partners Stewart Smith and Cath Antlaw who picked up the two level venue in 2014, to operate.

At 35 Union Street, on the corner of Bull, Cooks Hill, the asset was listed 12 months ago – shortly after the pair acquired the Great Northern Hotel at Teralba, about 25 kilometres away, on the town’s outskirts.

The deal comes eight months since another Sydneysider, Glenn Piper, on behalf of a small syndicate, purchased Newcastle’s Merewether Beach Hotel for $40m – a then-region record pub price (now held by East Maitland’s Windsor Castle Hotel, which traded for $51m last August).

Lawler, Waugh boost portfolios

Developed in 1882 as the Cosmopolitan Hotel and renamed 19 years later, the red brick Cooks Hill venue has a 24 hour liquor licence, gaming room with 21 electronic gambling machines and 10 unrenovated upstairs accommodation suites.

Mr Smith and Ms Antlaw offered it with an adjoining terrace, which is also licensed, providing development upside (story continues below).

Mr Waugh, the son of industry veteran Bill, will hold the asset via his Watering Hole Group, which elsewhere in regional New South Wales, manages pubs at Ettalong Beach, Kelso (Bathurst), Kyogle, Tamworth and Thirlmere.

In Sydney, he owns the New Hampshire in Potts Point, Narellan Hotel, RG McGees, in Richmond, and Grosvenor Hotel at Waterloo – the latter which set him back $8.5m in September, 2021.

Mr Lawler meanwhile, through his Local Hospitality Group, co-owned with Ryan Haynes, controls Camden’s Royal Hotel – which cost $19.5m just over a year ago – and, outside of the city, Bathurst’s Elephant & Castle, Dubbo’s Commercial Hotel, and the Riverina Hotel, in Wagga Wagga.

“The [Cooks Hill] asset is a charming and classical pub with well-rounded revenue streams…not reliant on any one source of income for profitability,” HTL Property’s Blake Edwards, who marketed the property, said.

“Newcastle, like other strong metro and sub metro centres around Australia, represents a real magnet for investor interest in an asset class which has performed at a clear premium to most others over the past few years,” colleague and co-sales agent, Dan Dragicevich, added.

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Marc Pallisco

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