The Royal’s cool, new world of upstairs luxury

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Naomi Chen and Sandy McDonald

VINTAGE glamour, a luxe vibe and a very cool events venue has been created upstairs at the Royal Hotel Queanbeyan, as the final stage of renovations at the iconic hotel have been completed.

“We’re here for the Queanbeyan community, they were fantastic supporters for us when we did the first renovation, so we were confident about this next generation,” says owner Anthony McDonald.

The Royal Hotel, located on the corner of Monaro and Crawford Streets, was first built in 1850, but rebuilt after a fire and reopened by the lord mayor of Sydney in 1926.

The ground floor section of the hotel was renovated in 2012 and Anthony  says many locals didn’t expect the contemporary venue to survive.

“We didn’t pay much for the hotel, but the renovation was extensive,” Anthony says.

“The vision was sound, past experience and a proper understanding of the target market with active management would reinvent the hotel to what it has become today.”

Anthony says he and his wife Sandy knew what the hotel could be.

Anthony and Sandy McDonald photographed in the new Upper House… “We wanted to preserve as many original elements as we could, but make it comfortable,” says Sandy.

“Making sure we executed our plan was important and we had to up our dress standards, our price point and the security in terms of who came in and who came out,” he says.

“We started turning people away if they weren’t dressed appropriately – there was a definite message that went out early on that this was what we expect from our patrons, and if you don’t meet that you’re not welcome.”

And now Upper House, the second storey which once housed 40 bedrooms, bathrooms and storage space, has been given the same treatment.

The upstairs has been revamped into a series of versatile spaces available for hire for weddings, special occasions, conferences and concerts.

Sandy says they were always buying an entire building, so the plan from the beginning was to maximise the whole space as much as they could.

“It’s the discovery of a ruin, we’ve made it comfortable without taking away the original architecture and feel,” she says.

Events manager Naomi Chen says the Upper House spaces are easily able to be adjusted to fit requests.

“I first saw the empty spaces and heard about the plans, and my role has been such an exciting challenge since then,” she says.

“It’s an amazing place, and so different to what else is around.”

Naomi says the Chicago Bar connects to the main Manhattan Room that can host up to 200 people, and can be divided by a floor-to-ceiling luxurious, marmalade-coloured curtain to create a more intimate atmosphere.

“It opens on to the atrium and courtyard with Japanese maples framing the rooftop terrace,” she says.

There’s the Beadman Room, an opulent, masculine-style private space with a luxe vibe that can seat 24 for a sit-down meal or 50 for cocktails, and the Menzies Room for conferences or dining, that also opens to the terrace. And all have the latest A/V screen technology.

Weddings can also make use of the bridal suite, also ideal for the bride and bridesmaids to prepare before the wedding.

The renovation touches lightly on period features to maintain the historical feel and uses vintage furniture to complete the look.

Sandy says the floors have come up beautifully, and the sash windows and leaded, stained glass have been left intact where possible, as well as the soldier bricks framing the doorways.

“We wanted to preserve as many original elements as we could, but make it comfortable,” she says.

Anthony says the pub today is focused on its food, offering quality produce with variety and fusions created by a team of six chefs under Swiss executive chef Beat Ettlin.

“Our menu and quality is fantastic, and we’ve also got a churrasco barbecue on the roof terrace for events, which can feed hundreds of people at once and smells absolutely divine when it’s going,” he says.

The downstairs renovation won the best Redeveloped Country Hotel in Australia, and they say they had aspirations of doing that again.

“We’ve had incredible feedback and people have recognised the efforts we’ve gone to,” says Anthony.

“This is a secret here in Queanbeyan that nobody really knows about, and what we’ve created is of a national standard.

“Canberra needs to know there’s a very cool option out here.”

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The Royal Hotel, 85 Monaro Street, Queanbeyan. Contact or call 6297 1444

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