Home / Royal Mail / What’s been missing from Ballarat’s pub life? This could be the place | The Courier

What’s been missing from Ballarat’s pub life? This could be the place | The Courier

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It is now time. It’s been a long 12 months since Nancy Lane and John Rattley took on the new lease at the Royal Mail Hotel and gave hope to the long-suffering punters of Sebastopol. The much-loved watering hole, closed and languishing after previous lessees defaulted on rent and staff entitlements in 2018, was due to open in March this year after much-needed renovations and repairs to the 152-year-old pub. COVID-19 put paid to those hopes before John and Nancy could open the doors. Sticking to their dream of giving the hotel back to the community, Nancy says the Royal Mail will reopen – as best they can under restrictions – on November 28. “This is our 12th opening date,” Nancy Lane says with a rueful laugh. “We’ve had 12 opening dates – those are ones that actually went out in public, you know, on Facebook and were announced as an event – and we were inundated. “We were in the middle of COVID, we had like 635 people saying, not only are they interested in going, but they were going. We said, ‘Oh, I don’t think this is good.’ “The only month we haven’t had an opening date was May. We were in the thick of it, and we just knew it wasn’t going to happen in May. But every other month, we’ve had one or two opening dates, and we had told staff we’d open. “That’s another great thing, too. We’ve had some people who were very keen to become, to be part of our Royal Mail team. They’ve been very patient and waited for us as well.” Because the hotel never re-opened as a business, it never qualified for any government financial assistance during the pandemic. “Unfortunately, we’ve kind of slipped through the cracks, because we were registered, but we just didn’t have our doors open,” Nancy said. To add to that difficulty, very early into the COVID-19 outbreak Nancy lost her job in Melbourne as well. “There’s been a lot of things that, 12 months ago, if you told us, we just wouldn’t have believed you, what’s unfolded this year,” she said. READ MORE: “But there are so many people that have it worse off and we’re very mindful of that. People said to us, “Why don’t you open a takeaway?’. “And we just sat back and said, ‘You know what, there’s a lot of pubs and takeaway and restaurants out there that are going to be struggling a lot more than we are’. “We’d rather throw our support towards them, rather than compete with them and their business. We made that decision quite early..” Nancy Lane says without support from the owners of the Royal Mail, there is no way the coming opening could have happened. In fact, she says, it’s unlikely she and John Rattley could have got through to the stage they’re at now. “We were very, very fortunate,” Nancy says. “We have an awesome landlord who came to the party and said our rent doesn’t start until our doors open. We didn’t ask for it; they offered it. They’re not hotel people; they’ve never run pubs themselves. It was a real estate investment for them. A closed pub is not a good real estate investment. “They really believed in John and me, that we’re not some big corporate organisation coming in to make everything shiny and glossy and upmarket. “If our landlord hadn’t made that offer, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation. There’s no way we could have survived with no income, and paying the lease as well. “Most businesses we’ve come in contact with have come to the party, have come back with either discounts, or postponements or suspension of services. And that’s made a big difference.” Just as supportive, and in a way more important, is the local encouragement and interest in seeing the pub back on its feet. Nancy says it’s not uncommon to see cars turn around and pull up out the front of the hotel when she and John are there, and have people come and tell them how wonderful it is to see what they are doing. John Rattley says some people have shed tears of gratitude. “We want to appeal to our locals,” Nancy Lane said. “We would love to have tourists and we feel that will be inevitable, but our mainstay will be our locals. I have hundreds of posts on Facebook: grown men, older men saying, ‘I’ve missed my pub; it was taken from me’. You know, Sebas is one of those idealistic kind of places where it’s part of a big town, or a small city, whichever way you want to look at it, but it’s also uniquely its own place.” Sebastopol’s Royal Mail Hotel will reopen on November 28. Attendees will be required to book and numbers will be limited by COVID-19 restrictions.

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