Plan to return iconic pub to former glory

UNDERWAY: Developer and Lazy Moe's owner Michael Guida. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY
UNDERWAY: Developer and Lazy Moe's owner Michael Guida. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

WORK has started on a development to restore a Bendigo landmark to its former glory.

Crews from Hopley Demolition on Saturday started dismantling the interior of the Hopetoun Hotel, at the corner of Mitchell and Wills Street.

The hotel has sat idle for nearly six years, much to the chagrin of many locals, who label it an eyesore.

The once thriving CBD pub will be turned into a Lazy Moe’s family restaurant and student accommodation.

Developer and Lazy Moe's restaurant chain owner Michael Guida said it was hoped to have the restaurant up-and-running in 12 months.

The Bendigo Advertiser was given an exclusive look inside the former hotel building on Thursday.

Much of it will be gutted, save for its historic old bar and a staircase leading up to once well-frequented accommodation.

There are few reminders of its glory days as a busy watering hotel – only a few wooden refrigerators, some rusted old coins and a sign above the bar advertising $2.30 stubbies of beer.

Plans include space for a 120-130 seat restaurant and four New-York style, single bedroom apartments.

The apartments will have their own kitchen and laundry and would ideally suit student accommodation.

Mr Guida said the development had been a long time in the making, but was glad the iconic building could finally be put to use.

“We have been working very closely with the heritage trust because obviously all the front is listed,” Mr Guida said.

“We’ve been working with them slowly and it’s been good progress.

“We’re glad to be bringing Lazy Moe’s to Bendigo.

“We put a lot of energy into it and we have a good team behind us

“We set up our first regional one in Ballarat (in 2011), which is working very well for us and hopefully Bendigo will be good to us too.”

The Guida family purchased the iconic pub building in 2012.

Passers-by told the Bendigo Advertiser the run-down old pub building had gone undeveloped for too long and were glad work on its redevelopment had started.

Mr Guida, who spent his early life in Kyabram and described himself as a “good-old country boy at heart”, said he was encouraged by the local support.

“Obviously there is a lot of interest in the corner,” Mr Guida

“It’s obviously been very stale for quite a few years here – it just needs a facelift again.

"A lot of people knew it as a good old watering hole.”

“We’ve got the green lights now, there’s nothing in the way now. The demolition guys are here, it’s full steam ahead.”

Certain to be gone once the development progresses is the hotel's eye catching and sometimes maligned blue exterior.

Mr Guida said he was working with heritage officers to find a suitable replacement colour.

Demolition worker Ross Lewis said preparation work was progressing well.

“We’re ripping down the ceilings and the non-low bearing walls at the moment,” he said.

“We found a few baby pigeons – we called the wildlife and they took them.

“The rain (overnight Wednesday) helped things, it kept the dust down.”

Like many locals, Mr Lewis said he was glad the historic building was getting a long overdue makeover.

“It’s been sitting here doing nothing for years and it’s right in the centre of town,” he said.

“It’s a good location for a restaurant."