Town loses only pub

 Windows and doors of the Romsey Hotel were boarded up early on Thursday.

Windows and doors of the Romsey Hotel were boarded up early on Thursday.

There's still an air of disbelief swirling around Romsey after the sudden - and seemingly permanent - closure of the town's only hotel (pictured) last Thursday.

The Romsey Hotel has an interesting history stretching back about 150 years, and owner and long-time hotelier Jim Hogan said he anticipated weighing up offers for the prime one-acre site with three road frontages in the heart of the town.

Rumours about what the future may hold spread thick and fast as locals became aware of workmen boarding up windows and doors of the hotel early on Thursday. The building has been made intruder-proof.

"It's a very sad time for Romsey, hotel employees and me as well," Mr Hogan said on Friday.

"I would have liked to have seen the doors stay open, but it's clear traditional pubs like this are no longer viable. I've had a number of enquiries about the site in recent months.

"I would hope the eventual outcome is very good for the town and its people," he said.

Mr Hogan, who also owns the historic Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo and the thriving Wallan Hotel (which he substantially upgraded and expanded in recent years), said he considered it would be "very unlikely to see a pub operate here again".

Developers and fast food operators are believed to be among those who have shown recent interest.

Mr Hogan ruled out rumours that "Aldi is coming" on the site.

Back in 2009, Mr Hogan lost a prolonged battle to win permission for poker machines to be allowed in the hotel. Macedon Ranges Shire Council and a strong community lobby group opposed pokies coming to the town.

The VCAT decision by Justice Bell was considered a landmark one as regards community interest and gaming.

Mr Hogan said the result effectively skittled the plans to expand and modernise the hotel on the site.

"This place is commuter country and near suburbia, not a country town. Development is needed for the betterment of Romsey and surrounds," he said.

"There is an increasing trend for old pubs to be purchased by developers ... the attraction being sites can be converted into units which means the real estate value can be higher than the business value.

"It's a pity the pub closed because the Romsey people deserved a vibrant, modern venue ... you only have to look at Wallan to see how the major upgrade of an old pub site has now become the social hub of the town."

The hotel closure also means Romsey is left without a TAB, and comes on top of the recent announcement that National Bank branch in Romsey will be closing next month.

Mr Hogan said he regretted some people now found themselves out of a job.

"Three experienced operators have tried to make a go of it (the hotel) and it is clear it has not worked out ... the cafe culture has had a big impact on pubs."

While there are some licensed premises operating in Romsey, the nearest pub locations are at Lancefield, Clarkefield and Riddells Creek.

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