Oxford Hotel comes back to life

Brian Condran on the verandah of his upstairs function centre at the Oxford Hotel, which he hopes will be open by November.

Owner of the Oxford Hotel in Casino, Brian Condran, remains philosophical even though it looks like he wont be opening his upstairs bar and restaurant until November, almost a year after violent storms blew his roof off and forced him to shut the doors.

The downstairs bar and beer garden re-opened just three weeks ago.

Its good to get back open again and pay some bills, he said. Im hoping to be open upstairs in time to catch the Christmas functions. Ive already missed out on so many bookings.

Brian said he started with his renos just a fortnight after buying the pub in 2002. He worked room by room over the years and had already spent a couple of hundred thousand when the December storms hit. Now he puts the entire renovation bill at close to $1.8 million.

Come December I was starting from scratch, he said. The whole pub was destroyed. We had a good six inches of water through the place and all the re-wiring had to be redone. I had to gut the joint.

Hes now turned upstairs into a restaurant and function centre complete with verandah dining and a lift. However, he still needs to fit a disabled toilet, make alterations to the staircase and obtain an additional liquor licence which he hadnt realised he needed. Meanwhile, Richmond Valley Council is determining what to charge for the lease of the airspace over the footpath that the verandah dining will jut out over.

So Ive got to rent my own verandah off them, he said. So Im not that impressed with that. But its something all the councils are doing.

Richmond Valley councillor Sandra Humphrys expressed concern at this weeks meeting that Council was unfairly copping criticism for the delayed opening.

She said the community was very excited about having an establishment of this calibre and they had got a sniff of Council wrong-doing.

Can we nip this in the bud? she asked.

General manager Brian Wilkinson said any suggestion that Council was to blame for the delay was a falsehood. He said the lease arrangement had been known right from the start and would not come into effect until the liquor licence was in place.

Brian said he was taking a gamble with the function centre but there was a lot of excitement around town about the opening.

Its always been my dream to own an old, wooden country pub, he said. The town is going ahead anyway and its a good town. Everybody is talking about it. They cant wait to come down.

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