DARLINGTON’S historic pub will stay open to the public after a Melbourne couple purchased it at auction on Saturday for $274,000.
The Elephant Bridge Hotel will be restored and the new owners are now discussing plans to turn it into a tavern, wine bar and bed and breakfast venture.
Melbourne accountant Dennis Livingston and fashion agent Karin Blomquist were the winning bidders in a drawn-out auction attended by 150 people.
Ms Blomquist said they were keen to retain the character and historic feel of the 170-year-old hotel and provide a meeting place where local residents could have social gatherings.
She said while the hotel had attracted regular customers such as nearby farmers and shearers, it was also well positioned with plenty of through-traffic and tourists driving past along the Hamilton Highway.
“It all happened fairly quickly actually,” Ms Blomquist said.
Elders agent Rob Rickard said the auction attracted people from across the district as well as Melbourne and Ballarat.
He conducted 19 inspections in the lead-up to the sale, with interest coming from all states except Western Australia.
The double-storey bluestone building sits on a 0.6-hectare block beside the Mount Emu Creek and includes a bar, lounge, two dining rooms, a kitchen and seven bedrooms.
Despite the strong crowd, interest in the property was initially very slow, with the property opening on a vendor’s bid of $200,000.
Four separate bidders from Melbourne, northern Victoria and local areas placed further bids in the next 45 minutes to take the hotel to its final selling price of $274,000. It was being quoted in the $220,000 to $320,000 price range.
“It was a good result,” Mr Rickard said. “It was very hard to know the value of the hotel being very isolated and a historical building.
“The local community are all very happy it’s going to stay open.”
Mr Rickard said the pub’s infamous ghost did not make an appearance — or a bid — during the auction.
Ms Blomquist said she was not put off by rumours of a ghost. “It’s a friendly ghost. I’m actually looking forward to meeting it.”
In another weekend auction, a one-bedroom unit at 5/464 Raglan Parade Warrnambool was passed in by PRD Nationwide after failing to attract a bid.
Auctioneer Brad Miller said an offer was made immediately after the auction, attended by about 12 people, and negotiations were continuing.