The Newtown Hotel is likely to reopen by the end of the year and play a key part in the reclaiming of the inner west as one of Sydney’s gay and lesbian hubs.

Licensee David McHugh from McHugh Holdings confirmed last night his company was in negotiations with the building owners, Newtown Colonial Hotel Pty Ltd, to re-open the iconic gay venue.

The parties have set a deadline of May 30 to come to an agreement over the hotel’s future, which previously looked like it was heading to the courts for a resolution.

Through mediation with the owners it appears this matter won’t have to go to court, McHugh told SSO.

We are confident this issue can be resolved through this process. Our main priority is to resolve it and then make public knowledge what will happen to the building.

McHugh said it was too early to set an exact date for the re-opening but at a rough guess I would say toward the end of the year.

If we continue to trade there we couldn’t do it in the condition the building was in prior, he said.

The priority for the company would be to upgrade the hotel to a standard the patrons expect and deserve.

The Newtown Hotel was abruptly shut on November 2 last year after a breakdown in lease negotiations. Given less than 24 hours to clear out and shut down, pub regulars and occasional frequenters alike were shocked by the sudden death of the long-time GLBT institution.

McHugh Holdings owns a number of Sydney pubs including the Colombian and Kinselas. It purchased the Newtown Hotel about five years ago from gay Sydney business identity Dawn O’Donnell.

McHugh said if his company continued to operate the venue it would remain a gay and lesbian destination and would most likely be run by former manager and Newtown identity Roger Z.

I can’t think of anyone better qualified to operate the Newtown than Roger Z, he said.

The Newtown Hotel was his passion. He did a tremendous job with a property that needed a lot of love.

Former Newtown Hotel barman and long-time patron Adam Fiala said the re-opening of the pub was great news for the gay community.

It’s a one in a million venue and it was just so important because it showed what life was like outside of Oxford St, he said.

It was cleaner, it was less drug-oriented and it was really anti-pretentious.

Former regular Josh Acton said the re-opening the Newtown, along with the Imperial, would herald a new chapter in gay and lesbian history in the inner west.

We’ve been without the regular haunts for so long it will mean a lot to see them back, he said.

We lost all our venues about the same time which meant we all had to head back into the city.

The re-opening of the Newtown will herald the rebirth of the inner west as a Sydney gay hub. The Imperial Hotel, which has been closed for renovations since October last year, is expected to re-open in June.

And Manacle, the community’s only leather bar, is expected to re-open at an inner west location in the coming weeks after closing its doors on Taylor Square, also in October last year.

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