The Flying Horse Bar and Brewery has changed hands in a multi-million-dollar deal with up to $1 million in renovations already on the cards.
Mark McIllroy, who is also a part owner of Rafferty's Tavern, is one of five new owners and said they had plans to revamp the look of the popular restaurant and bring something "unique" to Warrnambool.
"We've got some exciting plans for the place," he said.
Those changes include expanded entertainment space, a US-style sportsman's bar, outdoor dining and expanded dining area with a full wood-fired and charcoal kitchen.
"There's a gap in the market in Warrnambool and we want to do something different out here," he said.
"We're lucky enough to have bought a really well-established business that is travelling very well. We just want to take it to that next level."
The changes would be implemented in stages, depending on planning approvals, but the initial works to the kitchen are already in the pipeline.
A Josper grill from Spain, wood-fired oven and wood-fired pizza oven would be the main feature of the bistro.
"They are ordered and on the water and hit Australia in the middle of October," Mr McIllroy said.
"We've already implemented a new menu since Monday... there's new chefs in there as well.
"We want to keep the core food and we want to add more variety and something that is different for Warrnambool.
"We want to specialise in charcoal woodfire products. It's something unique to Warrnambool."
Other plans include opening it up internally and refurbishing the interior by extending the dining area and creating an outdoor eating area.
There's a gap in the market in Warrnambool and we want to do something different out here- part-owner Mark McIllroy
The toilets at the front will be relocated, and the bar area opened up to create a US-style sportman's bar.
"And then we're going start doing some live entertainment out here," Mr McIllroy said.
He said a stage would be put in and the front room extended out at the front of the building which would be designed with soundproofing.
"Our new open area should fit about 700 people," Mr McIllroy said.
"You could have 700 there but we'll probably stick to about 400 and keep it manageable because we're still going to be doing a large restaurant as well. The two won't impact on each other.
"It will be multi-use. So when we say entertainment, entertainment isn't just music, it could be sporting entertainment, fashion parades... who knows."
But Mr McIllroy said the focus would be on the food. "We really want to get the sports bar environment up and we really want to have the ability to do some sort of entertainment with a big space," he said.
It would be designed to be multi-use so it could be opened up or closed off for private function spaces. "Functions are very important to us," he said.
Mr McIllroy said they would also look at expanding the upstairs function area, and put in a rooftop smoking deck.
While the budget for the revamp was close to $1 million, he said he hoped they didn't have to spend that much.
While Mr McIllroy is a part owner in the two venues that bookend the Princes Highway in Warrnambool, they would operate independently. "We'll do a lot of stuff similar but we'll have our own point of difference here," he said.
The change in ownership has been a long-time coming with the business and property changing hands for reportedly more than $6 million.
"It took a long time to get it done but that's because we started looking at it through COVID and then we stepped away and we came back again," he said.
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