The Lobby Restaurant sale process started by National Capital Authority
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The Lobby Restaurant sale process started by National Capital Authority

After being closed for more than a year, the National Capital Authority is throwing open expressions of interest for the sale of The Lobby restaurant.

The venue's new owners would be buying a Canberra landmark, and while it doesn't have heritage listing, the authority said it would ensure that its heritage values are protected after the sale.

NCA chief planner Andrew Smith outside the front of The Lobby restaurant.

NCA chief planner Andrew Smith outside the front of The Lobby restaurant.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

"Once sold, the NCA and the Commonwealth will remain committed to protecting and preserving the heritage values of The Lobby as well as the Commonwealth Heritage listed landscape which it forms part of," the authority's chief planner, Andrew Smith, said in a statement.

Development of The Lobby would need parliamentary approval but Mr Smith is keen to talk up its the potential of the space.

Expressions of interest for The Lobby restaurant are open.

Expressions of interest for The Lobby restaurant are open.

Photo: supplied
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"This sale presents an opportunity for the private sector to invest in and reinvigorate a much loved Canberra landmark. We're eager to see a revitalisation of the space, which has the potential to continue to be a successful establishment in one of Canberra's most prominent locations," he said.

He expects that The Lobby will still be a hospitality venue, suggesting it could remain as a restaurant or become a bar or cafe.

"If they wanted to use it for meetings and conventions and receptions, that's all consistent as well," he told Fairfax Media.

"We're looking for proposals that really reinvigorate and add life and activity into the space."

The price tag for The Lobby is being kept under wraps; Mr Smith said the authority wanted to get the maximum return for the property. Revenue from the sale will be spent on the parliamentary triangle, he said.

The sale follows a series of divestments of Commonwealth assets, and the authority hopes the site it can follow in the steps of the former Hotel Canberra, now the Hyatt Hotel Canberra, the former Barton Cafeteria that is now Ottoman Restaurant and the NewActon precinct.

Last year, the federal government raked in $122.5 million from the sale of four other properties in the parliamentary triangle. The East Block, Anzac Park West and East buildings and a site on Constitution Avenue were sold to developers, with plans including a boutique hotel.

There were no further plans to divest assets managed by the National Capital Authority, Mr Smith said.

The restaurant, with its recognisable wide glass windows, has had a storied history, opening in 1968 to meet the needs of politicians who wanted somewhere to dine near Old Parliament House.

The past two years have been rocky times for The Lobby. The restaurant closed in early 2017 after a long-running stoush between the business's owner and the authority.

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The unused restaurant was occupied by Indigenous activists in November last year when Aboriginal tent embassy activists, who wanted access to the building for accommodation and access to toilets and a kitchen, were evicted. The authority said plans for the sale were under way before the occupation.

The tender process is being managed by Civium Property Group and runs from February 10 until March 15.

Sally Whyte

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.

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