Albury's Astor Hotel has used the period of COVID-19 patron restrictions imposed on NSW pubs wisely by completing stage one of a major revamp.
Plans to upgrade the Young Street venue, which opened in 1962, were well advanced when the pandemic hit earlier this year. But works to upgrade the main bar, sports bar and gaming area coincided around the time all pubs and clubs were shut and were completed last week.
The multi million dollar transformation towards a Palm Springs-style oasis will continue with second stage works including new kitchen, beer garden, bistro and function area
Melbourne architectural firm Techne were engaged to design the revamp after doing similar major overhauls on The Espy and Village Belle hotels in the Victorian capital.
Licensee Josh Cale said the venue would seat 400 people when the entire project was completed early next year.
"We really wanted to take the pub back to its original state and play on the original architecture of the place," he said.
"(Techne) did a lot of research when the Astor was originally built.
"It's come up really well.
"We should be fully done by February all going well."
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The pub has created a pop-up kitchen to produce bar meals for patrons.
Goulburn's Peter Griffiths bought the Astor Hotel-Motel last year with the revamp initially beginning with an upgrade of the 45-room motel at the back of the pub.
Mr Griffiths owns two pubs in Goulburn, Tattersalls and another sharing the same name as his Albury hotel.
The former chef and restaurateur also owns the Royal Hotel at Queanbeyan.
Mr Cale, who has been the licensee of the Astor for six years, said COVID-19 had been tough for all in the pub industry, but the downtime had been used wisely.
"It hasn't been great, but it has been a better time for us in allowing us to get in and get the work done," he said.
"We've tried to make the best out of a bad situation.
"We've had a really good response so far to what we've done.
"We're getting lots of people ringing up and wanting to book."
The easing of restrictions in NSW which allow more patrons to be seated outside at pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes, effective from yesterday, won't be of benefit to the Astor until stage two works are completed.
The Astor was built on the site of a large brick residence known in the early 1900s as Mugwee.
Poker machines were added to the pub in the mid-1990s.
The Astor overhaul coincides with the recent sale of another well-known Albury pub, Brady's Railway Hotel.