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VIDEO: Art Deco fan pays $835,000 for Imperial Hotel

THE Imperial Hotel, Murwillumbah, has been sold to a Sydney developer at an on-site auction for a "bargain" price of $835,000.

About 100 locals turned up to watch a buyer from Sydney outbid four others to buy the historic pink hotel at 115 Murwillumbah St yesterday.

Sold for $2 million about two years ago, Ray White real estate agent Byron Glen said the former public bar had been stripped of its poker machines, contributing to its cut price.

"When it sold previously it had about 20 poker machines and they were worth a couple hundred thousand each," Mr Glen said.

"It was exceptionally good buying."

HERITAGE WORTH FIGHTING FOR

IMPERIAL UP FOR AUCTION, GHOSTS AND ALL

Mr Glen said the buyer had no formal plans for the well-loved pub yet, but locals who attended the auction had plenty.

"It was all the buzz in the street; the whole town had a genuine interest in what was happening and it was pretty unique in that respect.

"Everybody had a different idea as to what it should be."

Mr Glen said former "Impy" customers had also shared their last drinking stories with the agent.

"There was one interesting tale from a fellow," he said. "It probably happened 40 odd years ago."

"There used to be a ladies lounge at the right hand most eastern end of the pub, and there was a little window in it into the car park.

"The publican, who was a tough old dude, said if anyone can put me through the window I'll give him a carton - just blokes being blokes.

"A timber cutter in town for the weekend waited until the publican was pretty worn out then put him through the window and got his carton."

The public bar was completed in 1931 by Builder AF Webb Contractors in the style of the day, which included an Art Deco street facade blended with Spanish Mission and Neo Georgian elements.

BUYER PROMISES TO KEEP UP HOTEL ART DECO STYLE

SYDNEY-based renewable energy and development entrepreneur Sam Khalil, who wants to roll out solar powered carports throughout Queensland, won the auction for the Imperial.

"I love the Northern Rivers corridor; Byron Bay, Brunswick Heads, and Murwillumbah is certainly an interesting little town. I have investments in Lismore as well.

"I believe regional areas are going to be hot properties one day."

Mr Khalil said he's worked on heritage and Art Deco projects in the eastern suburbs of Paddington, Woollahra, Vaucluse and Potts Point in Sydney, and sees the value in protecting antique architecture.

"It is a matter of the utmost importance to keep the class and character of the building," Mr Khalil said.

Mr Khalil said he would "absolutely" be keen to talk to the Murwillumbah Historical Society who told the Tweed Daily News recently they'd like to assist any new buyer with keeping up the building's heritage values.

"I would be keen to talk to them.

"A lot of the buildings we've bought have been Art Deco, they have a lot of character and a lot of class and nothing like that will be tampered with."

Mr Khalil said the hotel would not be so exclusive as to push out locals.

"We see it as a cute, classy little boutique hotel situated in the beautiful regional town of Murwillumbah, keeping with its class and its story, and all its glory, and above all else a place where locals can enjoy it.

"It's over the top and too exclusive to market it just to the elite Sydney and Melbourne (people), where all the locals get pushed on the wayside."



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