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Inspiration’s upstairs at The Oxford Hotel

IF you thought Peter Hayes was content with the $1.3 million refurbishment of the ground floor of The Oxford Hotel, think again.

In the next few weeks Mr Hayes and The Oxford team will embark on a six-month restoration job of the derelict upstairs section of the hotel, and they’ve got some work to do.

The renovations will extend the 17-month overhaul of the ground floor of the hotel that has re-captured its1930s glory, according to Mr Hayes.

“If we had taken the place over when it looked like that [the 1930s] it would just look amazing, but we are getting there,” he says.

Head designer Anthony Casella is keen to maintain the hotel’s history, according to Mr Hayes, and there are quite a few tales to tell.

In particular one spot on the floor is a little sunken and darkened, and a glance across at the wall shows a patch of markings – markings from darts matches.

“Where the grooves on the floor are is where they stood to throw the darts,” Mr Hayes says. “We could have covered the patch over but that is a bit of history and we didn’t want to lose it.

There is a great crack across this section of the floor, according to Anthony Casella.

“You can’t cover that up, it is a highlight, you cannot create something like that. You can buy wrought iron but you can’t buy that,” he says.

Mr Hayes, the former manager of rock band Weddings, Parties, Anything, was originally looking for a one-room pub, however his purchase of The Oxford in 1999 (which at the time only operated one room) has radically changed his intentions.

Currently sporting several rooms, a beer garden and cafe, the newest extension is aimed squarely at the corporate and wedding markets.

“We are knocking down the walls to some rooms up here [upstairs] that will create a large function area. That will be a major wedding reception area, with a cathedral ceiling and will have a really good feel to it,” Mr Hayes says.

“There is nothing like that in this area.”

The major function area will also feature doors out to the balcony, which needs extensive work.

“One room will be fitted out to be a boardroom … that too will open out to a verandah,” Mr Hayes says.

“There is extensive water damage to that room, we have had to do massive foundation work to repair broken pipes that were actually damaging the foundations.”

The Oxford had been severely neglected, according to Mr Hayes, who does not think the hotel had too much life left when he took over in 1999.

“If we hadn’t have come in and done that [foundation work] I am sure this place would have fallen over. I reckon it wasn’t to far away from bulldozing when we got in,” he says.

The first restoration task, completed in 2001, has been a success with a good cafe trade and plenty of people coming in for afternoon drinks in the beer garden – a former rubbish dumping ground.

“It never had approval for use as a licensed area but eventually we got that and it has been very popular,” Mr Hayes says.

“We have a lot of functions here and the demand has been so strong that it is part of the reason why we are going to do the upstairs area.”

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