Future of family-owned Marquis hotel in limbo

THE future of a family-owned and operated 150-year-old West Hobart institution and the jobs of its workers is uncertain given Labor’s policy to remove electronic gaming machines from pubs and clubs around Tasmania.

The Marquis of Hastings Hotel, a favourite meeting place for Hobart locals since its opening in 1847, was bought by Glenn and Pamela Frankcombe 25-years-ago.

The hotel is now run by their son-in-law, Jason Atkins, and his wife, Nicole.

Mr Atkins, licensee of the hotel, said if Labor was successful in the upcoming Tasmanian election, he would have to restrict the hotel’s offerings in the short-term.

He said what might happen in the long-term was anyone’s guess.

“If you are going to pull that kind of revenue out of a business, something has to give,” he said.

“Our main cost is labour and that’s the first thing that will go.

“I predict that we would have to cut the equivalent of three full-time positions immediately if electronic gaming machines were removed, but it’s not just gaming staff that will lose out, resources will have to be taken from all areas of the business.

“We currently over-staff some areas to provide a great level of customer service for our patrons, but this is something we won’t be able to do without revenue from gaming.

“People think that it’s just Federal Group that profit from pokies, but that’s not the case, they provide a revenue stream for many family-run businesses too.”

Mr Atkins said in the worst-case scenario, he might be forced to end the family’s long association with the iconic hotel and consider advances from developers who have been circling the property’s prime West Hobart location for years.

“If reducing labour costs doesn’t work, we will have to look at redeveloping the hotel into something else, which would be a shame considering the history and character of the building,” he said.

“I have developers knocking on the door regularly and in the current property market, converting the site into Airbnb might be a more lucrative option.

“The hotel provides a job for our kids – we’ve had generations of families where kids have got their first jobs after their parents have worked here and they’ve all been from the local community.”

Mr Atkins also said plans to invest in the business had been put on hold.

“We have just had plans drawn up to refurbish the whole bar,” he said.

“These plans have been halted until the state election has been decided and after that, you don’t know what is going to happen anyway so there will be no capital expenditure from us.”

Aside from being a favoured watering hole in the West Hobart community, the Marquis also sponsors two local sporting clubs.

It regularly raises money for charities and helps out schools and other organisations with discounted alcohol for raffles and events.

“We sponsor the St Virgil’s Old Scholars Football Club and the Marquis Tigers Cricket Club with thousands of dollars each year to help with the running costs of their operations,” Mr Atkins said.

“Discontinuing these sponsorships is not something we’d like to do, but it will be an easy way to reduce costs and would be something we have to look at too.”

Caption: Marquis Hotel licensee Jason Atkins.