The National Hotel will open its doors by Christmas—six years after being gutted by vandals and fire.
Owner Karl Bullers—who bought the building two years ago after a former owner’s run-in with a recalcitrant bank—says it has been a long road getting the historic pub back to its former self.
Asked why he’d taken on such a tough job, the 43-year-old developer says jokingly during a tour of the construction site, “I was drunk at the time”.
Standing on the rooftop where he plans to open a restaurant bar overlooking the port city, he says its first Christmas booking has been locked in—for Freo councillors.
“This is the best spot in town, it’s the highest point in the West End,” he says. “But at the moment it’s a mad scramble, we’re trying to kick out the builders and train up the staff.”
He says the hotel will open in two stages, the first involving restoration of the basement, ground and first floors. Stage two includes a 11-room four-star boutique hotel on the third and fourth floors, due to open in mid-2014.
A 56-seater alfresco dining area on High Street will be completed within the next two weeks. A grand launch is expected mid-January.
“I would probably not have touched it had the previous owners not restored the facade,” he says having developed similar projects such as Carnegie’s and The Conservatory in Perth.
“I’ve never taken on an historical project of this nature before. This is a great location, we have the university, train station, cruise ships and the $200m Kings Square project.
“And you can see Rottnest from here.”
He says the big challenge was getting the building to conform to strict building codes, the hotel now fitted with sprinklers. A final sign-off by fire and health authorities is due soon.
Despite the damage caused in 2007, Mr Bullers has managed to salvage the hotel’s 3m fireplace, ornate ground floor ceiling, leadlight windows and jarrah staircase posts.
Designed in Federation free style, the state and national heritage listed building dates back to 1886.
Mayor Brad Pettitt described the restoration as a key project for High Street: “Interestingly, when it first burnt down, we were not sure the building could be saved.
“It was almost knocked down for safety reasons.”
by CARMELO AMALFI