If you’ve ever tried to book a night at a hotel in Ballan over the last five years, you’ll find it was pretty much ‘mission impossible’.

But by the end of 2021 that could change.

The Great Western Hotel – which officially opened today (Wednesday) – is planning to demolish its existing disused accommodation block – and build up to eight rooms that complement the hotel’s new look, feel and focus.

It’s light, bright, airy and comfortable.

Operator Mitch Duncan said they were also exploring the idea of a rooftop garden bar on top of the new section of the complex.

“There are great views of the river from up there. It makes sense,” he said.

“We’re hoping to do it by late next year.”

The current Inglis St building – which until recently was known as Hudson’s Hotel – was built in 1963 and has now been renovated with that era in mind.

It features a peacock theme, including specialty wallpaper imported from Britain and a peacock mural at the front door.

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“Pubs bring their communities together – whether it’s after a wedding or a wake or a big sports game.

“I want this to be a place where anyone can come.

“I want it to be a central place for the community. We’re looking at footy tipping competitions, meat raffles, events on a Saturday morning and more.

“It’s about building the sort of space where you can come in for a cup of coffee or a quick drink as well.”

The menu will include local produce and Sher Wagyu beef with a focus on high-quality seasonal menus. Vegans and vegetarians will also be catered for.

Under current COVID-safe restrictions, the hotel can only have a total of 40 patrons at once, spread over four rooms.  The eastern-most dining area has been transformed into a ‘indoor beer garden’ with umbrellas, huge pot plants and artificial grass.

Mr Duncan said Ballan was gradually becoming more attractive to tourists, as people went out of their way to go to the town’s award-winning butcher and the Skin Inn.  He said this demand would only grow over time.

Ballarat Courier 1916. Image: Ballarat Irish Association

The site – on the corner of Inglis and Stead streets – has been a pub and/or general store since 1850.

It began life as William Southwell’s Great Western Hotel, then Walter Duncan’s store (1867-74), Hanrahan’s Hotel (from 1875) – and eventually Hudson’s from 1947 onwards.

The pre-1963 building had many smaller businesses under the same roof including Eddy’s Tailor Shop, Simons Saddle Repairs, Kirks’s Books and Stationery – and McNally’s Barber Shop.

Mr Duncan said he would love to hear from anyone who has old photos of the hotel – especially the interiors and any images of functions held there.

The Great Western is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11am-late and on Sundays 11am-5pm.

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Gabrielle Hodson
Author: Gabrielle Hodson

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