KELLY Cloake has gone from cafe worker to co- owner and manager of a hip boutique budget hotel in the centre of Hobart after a chance meeting with the building’s owner.
Opening in late October, the Alabama Hotel is the latest incarnation of the imposing art deco building on Liverpool St which has quite a bit of history behind it.
Built in the 1830s, it opened as a hotel in 1867 and was updated in the 1930s. It is believed to be the fi rst hotel in Hobart to have had a takeaway bottle shop and takes its name from the USS Alabama, which visited Hobart at the time of opening.
“I found some old photos of it before it had the deco facade,” Kelly said.
“It was Georgian with a fl at top and then the deco facade was put on about 100 years later, but I haven’t been able to date it exactly just yet.”
Queensland- born Kelly and her partner, Aedan Howlett, moved to Tasmania six years ago from Fremantle.
Kelly’s varied work in administration, backpacker accommodation, ticketing and hospitality primed her for the opportunity to make something of the Alabama Hotel.
Used by the University of Tasmania over the past nine years for student accommodation, the building’s owner was looking to re- establish the deco gem when he got in contact with artist Aedan.
“It was empty from January to September [ last year] when we got the keys,” Kelly said.
“In that time they repainted and re- carpeted, so it was in really good shape when we got it.
“The owner was thinking of turning it into a backpackers so he asked Aedan to do a mural – and when that didn’t work out, Aedan said, ‘ Oh yeah, Kelly could run that’.
“So I kind of got dobbed in but it’s been great.”
The funky 17- room hotel has been decked out with vintage furniture and art pieces which have created a welcoming vibe.
“My style at home is ’ 60s and ’ 70s retro but with the old club lounges downstairs I think I’ve gone a bit older than that here,” Kelly said.
“Some things came from our house – it was nice to have a clean- out, actually – and a lot of it came from op shops and Gumtree.”
The ground floor is home to the bar, reception, lounge room and sunny balcony overlooking Liverpool St.
The area features some of the most interesting vintage pieces, including the original cash register, and the bar is open to the public for coffee or an after- work drink.
Each bedroom is uniquely decorated and bathrooms are communal.
Guests of all kinds have taken to the comfortable and relaxed environment.
“The week we opened in late October, the place was booked out already for the week of MONA FOMA,” Kelly said.
“Everyone who was here was here for the festival, so by day they were all recovering from their big nights. I made a lot of bloody marys that week.
“In the beginning, I thought our guests would tend to be people in their 20s who didn’t really want to stay in dorm rooms anymore but didn’t want to pay $ 200 a night, either.
“But it’s been much broader than that – we’ve had foreign visitors and people of all ages.”
Check it out at www.alabamahobart.com.au