One of Orange’s most iconic watering holes, Kelly’s Rugby Hotel, will close at the end of trade on Sunday.
The Lords Place pub, which the Kelly family has run since 1922, has been sold, and the new owners will not continue to run the hotel or Mary Jane’s restaurant.
Only the drive-through bottle shop will continue to operate from Monday.
Publican Bill Kelly said he understood the pub’s 11 poker machines would be moved to the Ophir Hotel at Glenroi, which Kelly’s new owners, the O’Hara Group, also runs.
“Essentially they have just bought it for the poker machines,” Mr Kelly said.
“Our most recent understanding is the bottle shop will continue to operate and they are closing down the inside of the hotel and the restaurant.
“My understanding is they are looking to lease or sell the venue.”
Mr Kelly said he originally thought the pub would continue to operate.
“We sold it on the basis it would continue to trade as a hotel,” he said.
Mr Kelly said about 20 senior and casual staff would lose their jobs.
He said some had found new jobs and others were looking for work, but the bottle shop staff would be retained.
“A big part of our trade has been local and regional wines. Our bottle shop sales are quite strong,” he said.
Ophir Hotel publican Tim Ireson confirmed Kelly’s would close, however he said the future of the poker machines was still being sorted out.
“It could be. We’re not 100 per cent sure,” he said.
Mr Ireson said the Ophir Hotel had submitted a development application to Orange City Council this month to build an expanded play area for children and eating area for families as part of its new family entertainment focus.
He said they hoped that expansion could be open by December.
The closure of Kelly’s has also come as a blow to a string of sporting teams.
Mr Kelly said the hotel provided $100,000 annually in sponsorship and funding for sports, including rugby league, cricket, football and hockey, as well as funding for community and school groups.
Kelly’s is the social home of the CYMS rugby league and cricket teams, which are now looking for new sponsorship deals. CYMS rugby league fans are planning a farewell drink at the pub this Sunday.
Essentially they have just bought it for the poker machines.Bill Kelly, Kelly's Rugby Hotel publican
A post on the club’s Facebook site said the club had been closely linked to the hotel since 1945.
“The connection of the green and gold with that pub on Lords Place corner opposite Wade Park is part of our history and our folklore that will never fade ... it was everyone in green’s second home,” it said.
Mr Kelly said it had been a tough time knowing the family ownership was coming to an end.
“The last month has been pretty emotional. You can’t be involved in something as long as our family has and leave it without having very mixed emotions,” he said.
Mr Kelly said while the closure was ‘disappointing’ it was a part of modern business.
“You have to be realistic, nothing stands still,” he said.
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Mr Kelly has been Orange Liquor Accord chairman for the past eight years.
He will step down, with a replacement likely be elected early next year.
Kelly’s will be the third hotel in Orange to close in recent years after the Carrington and Occidental hotels.
A Liquor & Gaming NSW spokesman said the Ophir Hotel had approval for 19 Gaming Machine Entitlements and all hotels were restricted to a maximum of 30 GMEs.
“To acquire GMEs from Kelly’s Rugby Hotel, [the Ophir Hotel] would need to apply to [the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority] to have its gaming machine threshold increased,” he said.
“Where a hotel is seeking extra GMEs, it may have to apply for a gaming machine threshold increase. In addition, the actual transfer of the GMEs must be approved by the Authority.”
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