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Cairns Courthouse Hotel could be set for legal battle

The widely applauded move by Cairns Regional Council to swoop in and buy the heritage-listed property may face some legal hurdles.

The two companies involved in a contract over the Courthouse Hotel are considering their legal options after being blindsided by Cairns Regional Council's bold bid to buy the heritage-listed property.

TropicNow understands the Lantern Hotel Group was just a fortnight away from completing the sale to an unnamed buyer following a three month process of liquor licensing and gaming approvals.

The eleventh hour move by council, unanimously decided in a special meeting on Friday, has been widely applauded and warmly welcomed by the Cairns community.

In a brief statement to the stock exchange earlier today, Lantern Hotel Group said:

"On 21 July 2016 Lantern informed the market that it had entered into contracts for the sale of the freehold and business of the Courthouse Hotel in Cairns for a sale price of $6.25 million and that completion was expected in October 2016, subject to the timing of the necessary liquor and gaming approvals to be granted by the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.

"Lantern notes the recent unexpected media release from the Cairns Regional Council that it proposes to compulsorily acquire the Courthouse Hotel.

"Lantern has not received any formal notification from the Cairns Regional Council regarding its announced proposal to compulsory acquire the Courthouse Hotel.

"At this stage Lantern is not in a position to make any comment as to what impact this may have in relation to Lantern's announced sale of the Courthouse Hotel, including the timing of completion of the sale.

"Lantern will continue to keep the market informed of any developments as and when they arise."

During a media conference after council's vote on Friday, Mayor Bob Manning confirmed the council had acted following advice from its lawyers.

"When the building was first listed for sale we - in accordance with the advertisement - lodged an expression of interest indicating we had an interest in acquiring that land, (but) a decision was then made (by the owners) to enter into a contract or to move the contract with another party," Cr Manning said on Friday.

"Council has then looked at its options one of those options was to proceed with compulsory acquisition, which we’ve done.

"I haven’t been in contact with anybody (at Lantern Hotel Group). But we have had ongoing discussions with a number of parties, including our legal advisors, we are acting in accordance with the provisions of the act, and in accordance with the advice we received from our advisors."

Cr Manning conceded the timeframe for the compuslorily acquisition process depended on the response from Lantern.

"The process has now started statutory notices will be served. How long it then takes depends upon what the reaction of the other party is," he said on Friday.

"There may be discussions it will depend upon the negotiations between the parties.

"There will be discussions between the parties which could either have things move faster or discussions which make things move slower.

"We understand and respect that, that will just be the way things play out."