Rising from the ashes

Macedon Railway Hotel owner Stefanie Duzel. (Stefanie Duzel)

By Oliver Lees

Macedon Railway Hotel owner Stefanie Duzel is fighting to keep her business alive, after a technical fire and lockdown measures have restricted her ability to trade.

Ms Duzel has been focused on booking high profile live music acts since taking over as owner of the hotel three years ago, but she said the business has taken multiple hits with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“We’ve been shut down repeatedly through COVID-19, constantly having to cancel and move gigs,” she said.

“But I had a vision from the start, because I knew what I wanted the place to be. We have an ethos at the pub that we were going to put on music every weekend, and that it was always going to be original music.”

But on top of intermittent closure brought on by Victoria’s five separate lockdowns over the past 18 months, further hardship struck the hotel in June, when an electric fault sparked a fire in the middle of the night.

“Out of the blue, I got a phone call saying the pub was on fire,” Ms Duzel said.

“I raced down worried sick at what I was going to find there. Luckily, there’s a fire station across the road and they had received a number of calls.

“It’s been heart-wrenching to see all of it cleared out, it’s kind of like a blank canvas at the moment.”

Ms Duzel said no one was hurt in the blaze, but the fire tore through the hotel’s accommodation, front bar and bistro, leaving the music hall as the only area without significant damage.

“I decided it was my focus to get the music hall open again as soon as possible,” she said.

“We had a week and a half before our next booked gig, it was just crazy. There was soot on every surface, all the carpets and tables had to be cleaned.

“Now because of COVID-19, all of our gigs have had to be moved, but our music hall has reopened and is accepting customers again.”

The front bar and bistro will remain closed for renovation for at least the next three months, Ms Duzel said.

Macedon Railway Hotel staff member Linda Alexopolous said she was inspired by Ms Duzel’s drive.

“She’s faced a lot of challenges, turning the pub from a little watering hole, to a big music venue,” Ms Alexopolous said.

“Nothing is going to get her down, she just pushes through everything.”

Ms Duzel said she’s looking forward to what the future holds.

“In my experience, the biggest lessons often come from the worst things,” she said.

“When you look back at those tough times, and how much stronger you feel, that’s the best feeling in the world.”