Light rail project blasts hole through heritage hotel

25 February, 2019 by Craig Hawtin-Butcher

Image: (c) Google 2019

Historic Strawberry Hills Hotel endures wonky pole through light-rail required hole in heritage awning.

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A heritage-listed hotel in Sydney’s Surry Hills is being blighted by light-rail construction, a hotel representative says, after a pole related to its construction was installed through the hotel’s awning last Thursday, 21st February 2019 and quickly found to be wonky.

“When they put the pole through the hole, they tightened it up… I said to them, ‘mate, that pole’s on a lean’.” says Blair Lennon, General Manager of the Strawberry Hills Hotel and the nearby Shakespeare Hotel. “That pole went in at 1:15am, by 2:30am that pole had been pulled back up, put on the back of a truck and driven off.”

The debacle follows a hard-going six month period for the Strawberry Hills Hotel, and also its sister venue the Shakespeare Hotel.

“It was something that was told to us around six months ago,” says Lennon. “We were a bit stunned so late in the light-rail project to hear a pole was going to go through the awning of our heritage building.

“It came down to the fact it was a State Government project and they can do as they please. It was going to happen,” Lennon alleged.

“We’ve gone on so long with no-one talking to us and no-one dealing with us that we just had to deal with it, cop it and cop the pole.

“It’s more what’s unfolded over the last six months. They spent $100,000 building a temporary pole on the other side of the light rail tracks. When it could have been the actual pole.” This claim could not be immediately substantiated by Australian Hotelier.

Lennon claims that the hotels’ businesses are suffering and they’re receiving little support from the authorities.

“The impact on business is huge,” says Lennon. “Obviously we’ve got no parking anywhere near us [now]. They cut the power to the awning… When people walk past, there’s this massive scaffolding. At night, we look closed.

“To make matters worse, today I’ve come to work at [sister hotel] The Shakespeare, and the whole front [of the hotel] is getting shut off for pavement works. So not only do we have a hotel with a four-day process now into its third week, now we’ve got another pub copping the same fencing right out the front.”

With the uncertainty around works clearly taking a toll on hotel staff, Lennon says:

“This process has been going on for so long now, I couldn’t tell you [how it’s going to get resolved]. We’ve reached out to all the authorities, to the AHA, Transport.

“We’re suffering, we’ve taken a massive hit on our businesses and to have no communication or no care has been really frustrating.

“It actually wears you down personally, especially this past week. I’m out there [on site] from 10pm to 2:30am talking to these guys [Altrac contractors].”

“Will we benefit long term from this short term pain? That’s the hardest thing – we don’t know.

“They’ve just turned around and taken Allianz Stadium away, which was a big, big benefit for us [with passing footfall en route to the games]. Now you can truck people right from Central to the SCG – are people still going to walk past our pub?

In relation to the Strawberry Hills Hotel, AHA NSW’s Director of Liquor and Gaming John Green said: “AHA NSW is on the record through the recent Parliamentary Inquiry setting out our concerns regarding the impact of the light rail on our member venues including the Strawberry Hills Hotel.

“We continue to advocate for improved compensation to members due to the delays in completion, disruption to service and issues surrounding dust and noise.

“While there may be some benefits for venues once construction is complete, the unfortunate reality is some hotels are unlikely to ever fully recover due to the removal of parking spaces and lost patrons.”

Representatives for the ALTRAC consortium have been approached for comment.