My husband always dreamed of owning a hotel. Getting close to retirement age, we decided it was now or never to make his dream materialise. The saying ‘be careful what you wish for, it just might happen’ was very true. We bought a quaint old hotel on three acres with a fast flowing stream running along one side. The setting was lovely.
Our initial problem was acquiring staff. Because the hotel was in a tourist area, jobs were plentiful. When we employed suitable people, a rival establishment would make them an offer too good to refuse. There were numerous issues with some staff, from drugs to theft, so good employees were in great demand. Replacing workers was an ongoing chore.
My husband soon discovered he hadn’t the personality to humour dull, boring, and demanding drinkers who thought that because it was a public establishment, management should cater for their individual wants. Examples - the jute box music is too loud, the heating is too hot or the air conditioning too cold. Why don’t you sell such and such beer? Why do you serve him, he has blue hair? The complaints were never ending, mostly by the public bar patrons. After two years it was affecting my husband’s health.
We decided to lease the business. The Hotel Broker brought two women to inspect the business who agreed to lease it under a company name. The contract was proceeding in a normal way until one of the women sent a fax to us with the company’s heading and the names of the directors. The principal of the company was a man barred from the premises because he was a violent troublemaker. He had a court case pending for assaulting the previous owner of our hotel. There was no way we would lease our business to such a person. He would have ruined the business. We withdrew from the contact. We were disappointed, but those things happen.
After that debacle we thought it best to sell the business freehold instead of leasehold. Again the Broker found buyers and a three-month contract was signed. Settlement was towards the end of November. We were looking forward to being out of the business for Christmas. The purchasers lived interstate. On the day of settlement they came to the area where our hotel was situated. By late afternoon I hadn’t heard from their solicitor about arrangements for hand-over. I phoned him but he refused to discuss the matter with me. This made me annoyed. I then phoned our solicitor and asked him to find out which day the people wanted to take over the hotel. We had to arrange for an official stocktake and then we would no longer have access to the business.
Our solicitor phoned me back telling me the buyers had decided to go for a few weeks holiday before the final settlement. I was furious. Because I had studied Real Estate Contract Law, I knew that by not settling on the due date they had reneged on the contract. I told our solicitor to tell the buyer’s solicitor the sale was terminated. I knew our solicitor’s family owned hotels so I asked him for the name of a different Hotel Broker. He told me of someone in Melbourne. I phoned the Melbourne broker immediately and listed our hotel with him. He said he would come up the next day to see it and get us to sign the listing forms.
During all this kerfuffle my husband was in bed. He said he wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t pay much heed to what he was saying. I was too caught up in the drama of the non-settlement of our business and deciding what to do next.
On the day after the non-settlement and withdrawal from the hotel sale, my husband asked me to take him to the doctor. He was immediately admitted to hospital. He was a very sick man. I felt guilty for ignoring him on that curve ball day.
Within a few days the new Hotel Broker had found buyers for our hotel. They settled in January during the terrible 2003 bush fires. The business had never been so busy. Accommodation was full to capacity with firefighting personnel. Meals had to be provided, bed linen changed and rooms cleaned but the settlement and handover went smoothly.