The major shareholder of Public Bar in the south Canberra suburb of Manuka and the founder of Canberra’s largest accounting firm, Walter Turnbull, has taken over the derelict Commercial Hotel on the main street of Yass.
Andrew Turnbull is also part of a Canberra-based syndicate that recently purchased five pubs in the NSW Central West for $75 million.
Investment Management Group now owns the Royal Hotel in Orange, the Dudley Hotel in Bathurst, the Castlereagh Hotel in Dubbo, the Federal Hotel in Wellington, and the Federal Hotel in Mudgee.
Mr Turnbull will renovate the Commercial Hotel, which has been neglected since 2005, with his brother-in-law Anthony Barrie.
The pair has established a shelf company, Commercial Hotel Yass Pty Ltd, and has two years to finalise plans and purchase the property.
Sydney developer Michael Rastegorac has been removed from the project after working on hotel plans that included an apartment complex, shops and a restaurant since 2017. He declined to comment.
Commercial Hotel owner Warren Hall said Mr Rastegorac’s plans were taking too long and had never been lodged with Yass Valley Council.
Mr Turnbull grew up in Yass and was behind the 92 lot subdivision at Hatton Park. He is also in the process of subdividing land at Iceton Place.
While researching potential pub investments in NSW, he saw the opportunity to buy the Commercial Hotel and create an establishment similar to The Sir George in Jugiong.
He hopes the redevelopment will attract people out of Canberra, with Canberrans already driving 40 minutes further west to drink, dine and stay at The Sir George.
The Commercial Hotel will become a family-friendly pub with strong food, beverage, entertainment and accommodation offerings that can double as a conference and wedding venue, said Mr Turnbull.
“It’s a large block so we’ve got the ability to create some good outdoor entertainment areas, but still make it cosy inside for the depths of winter,” he said.
While the Commercial Hotel isn’t heritage listed, Mr Turnbull intends to retain its heritage features, such as the large verandah that hangs above the main street.
It will require a lot of work, with the building in ruin from vandals and thieves who routinely smash their way through what’s left of the building, but Mr Turnbull is confident he and Mr Barrie can get the job done.
“It’s going to be expensive but if we get it right, it will open up as a great venue for Yass and Canberra people to look at as a corporate and entertainment venue,” he said.
“I’m also hoping it will become a destination for people from Sydney who are willing to go a bit further than Bowral.”
The pair has begun working with an architect firm and Mr Turnbull said Yass Valley Council has been supportive of their preliminary discussions.
He said they will lodge plans with council as soon as possible.