A PIECE of Inverell’s history is being brought back to life in the form of The Union Bar.
Originally the Union Bank in Inverell’s main street, the building has also served as a restaurant and a pub – the Inverell Tavern – and now builders Tim and Ann Russell are going to turn it into a licensed espresso bar focusing on coffee and “good, simple food”.
The couple bought the building in June and have been working on restoring it to its former glory, with an opening slated for November.
Mr Russell said he wasn’t at all interested in buying the building until the real estate agent approached him and urged him to look inside the former hotel in May.
“We came home and I did a bit of a sketch-up of what I’d like to do with it and started pricking my ears up about it,” he said.
“We had no desire to set up a coffee shop and bar at all, but it was the inspiration of this building. As soon as Ann saw the cedar staircase, she fell in love with it and we could just see the potential.”
The former Union Bank is a two-storey building built in 1911 and served as a bank until 1972, when it was converted into a restaurant then a pub in 1979.
The ground floor was where the pub used to be and it will be turned into a wine bar and coffee shop with outdoor seating and a small, private bar in the back.
“What Inverell really needs is a place where you can sit with friends, where you can have a drink and you don’t have to have food,” Mr Russell said.
Upstairs where the residence for the bank and the accommodation for the pub was, there will be two self-contained serviced apartments for short stays with a small loungeroom and a kitchenette in each.
“We got the idea for those when we stayed in one in Mudgee called the Cobb and Co,” Mr Russell said.
The couple said they enjoyed working within the constraints of the heritage system because they wanted to convert the building back to how it looked.
“We’ve restored the columns out the front because we found the old footings, but they aren’t as tall as they were because we want to put umbrellas in them,” Mr Russell said.
“We’re actually excited about the heritage side of things. We are painting the bricks in heritage colours and we’ve been pretty sympathetic to it.”
While undertaking the restoration, Mr Russell came across old photos he developed for his former boss 25 years ago and one of them featured The Union Bank in a main street scene.
“We’ve got a whole host of old photos of Inverell, so we’re going to do them in black and white and put them up through the building,” he said.
“It’s just a great old building with the cedar staircase and all original stained glass windows are upstairs, but they ripped out the chimneys, which was unfortunate.
“We are going to get our own coffee blend and open hopefully at the end of November.”