The Grand Hotel elevates standards in accessibility
by Sandi Miller & Sophy Galbally
12th July 2017
IF WALLS COULD talk, the walls of The Grand Hotel Warrandyte would have an extraordinary story to tell.
Built in 1895, The Grand Hotel Warrandyte has stood proudly for more than 120 years as the backbone to the Warrandyte township.
On June 30, the historic Yarra Street hotel marked a significant milestone, celebrating the installation of a lift, bringing the hotel in line with the national Disability Discrimination Act.
The ribbon was cut by local councillor Sophy Galbally who applauded the hotel as a great example of a business that recognises the community need for access for families.
“At great expense the Grand installs a lift which sends a welcome to the 20% of the population with a disability and to our ageing baby boomers who are now over 65,” she said.
When locals Greg Kennedy and Steve Graham took ownership, they promptly got rid of the pokies and replaced them with a kids play room.
Since then, the hotel has undergone dramatic renovations, numerous licks of paint and is being lovingly cared for by general manager Peter Appleby.
Mr Kennedy and Mr Graham told the Diary, that shortly after they purchased the hotel an 80-year-old man arrived one night to go to his granddaughters 21st birthday party, but when he could not get up the stairs he had to go home.
“We thought ‘that’s not good enough,’” the pair said.
So they immediately started planning to install a lift to allow access to the upstairs function rooms.
It has taken them three years to retrofit the historic building to meet current standards.
The official opening of the elevator was attended by local resident Meindert Withoff, who uses a wheelchair, and he is very happy that the hotel is now fully accessible by everyone.
“It’s fantastic! I really appreciate it — I know that in the past some people with disabilities couldn’t go to certain functions in the pub just because they couldn’t go up the stairs — and that is a real shame — because pub is an abbreviation for public, and it is not very public if it is not accessible for people with disabilities,” Mr Withoff said.
The function rooms upstairs are now being fitted with disabled toilets to complement the existing ones on the ground floor.
These new facilities continue the Grand’s reputation as the backbone of Warrandyte, where the hotel has served as a safe place for those in need, opening its doors to the community during the 1931 floods, 1939 Black Friday fires and subsequent bush fires in the 1950s and 1960s, this renovation will now allow the hotel to serve all members of the community.
The Grand is part of Warrandyte’s social and community hub, with patrons ranging from 18 to 80 +year olds and from all walks of life, installation of the lift will give seniors, parents with prams and people with disabilities easier access to the venue.
After the ribbon cutting, councillor Galbally stated how the Grand was an example to all businesses and urged others to look at ways in which they can make themselves more inclusive to our modern, diverse community.
“I encourage all local businesses to see how they can improve accessibility so they too send this message of welcome,” she said.