ITS strongroom once held a vast fortune, now new money may transform the city’s former ANZ bank building into a small wine bar.
A group of local businessmen is poised to lodge a development application with council to operate the majestic sandstone building at the corner of Hunter and Bolton streets as H&B, a high-end quaffing bolt-hole.
Slated to open in March, provided council and state government liquor legislation is met, the venture is three years in the making for mates Tim Bohlsen, an IT entrepreneur, Coffee on Crown co-owner Justin Oliver, Newcastle Club food and beverage manager Matt Underwood and Wining Pom writer and blogger Patrick Haddock.
The bar will seat 120 patrons and its restaurant will use the former bank’s strongroom as a coolroom, while the basement will serve as a wine cellar.
The bank was built in 1914 and, while some original features of the building will remain, the sleek design by city architect Murray James includes a feature wall embedded with bottles.
Mr Bohlsen said the businessmen had searched at length for the right site for their venture, which will be marketed at the upwardly mobile, aged 30 and above. ‘‘The heritage of the building is wonderful, it has such linkage to our past but it’s all about the revival of our city,’’ he said.
Mr Bohlsen said the group did not want the building – which has been vacant since March this year, when the ANZ closed the sub-branch to merge with its parent branch in Newcastle West – to suffer the same fate as the former Newcastle post office directly opposite.
‘‘There’s no single project or group like GPT that will renew the city, it has to be a collective effort by individuals,’’ he said.
‘‘This is not so much about our business, but what we are becoming a part of.’’