The Clarence Hotel remains closed 12 months after the storm hit Maclean.
The Clarence Hotel remains closed 12 months after the storm hit Maclean. Jenna Thompson

EXCLUSIVE: Hotel's future revealed

IT'S a question many Lower River residents have asked for the past year: what's happening to the Clarence Hotel, Maclean?

In January 2018, the hotel sustained major damage after a severe storm ripped off its roof. Debris crashed down on to several cars owned by patrons who were eating lunch inside the premises.

"It was horrific what happened and incredibly lucky no one was seriously injured," owner Debbie Alford said.

"The hotel is obviously replaceable compared to a life."

While other businesses impacted by the storm have since reopened, the Clarence Hotel remains closed, leading to rumours.

"The real reason isn't as exciting," Ms Alford said.

"It hasn't reopened because there have been a number of delays through no fault of the Emmanuels (publican) and ours.

"It's just been the insurance process and now we're simply waiting to get the go ahead."

Ms Alford said they expected to be open by Christmas, but hurdles delayed the process.

"It's a heritage building, so that had to be taken into consideration," she said.

"We also got another two to three lots of rain in the few weeks after the storm, so we had to bring another assessor back to inspect the new damage."

After a tiring year, Ms Alford said 10 days before Christmas, they received DA approval from Clarence Valley Council to begin restoring the hotel back to its former glory.

Now, there is just one hurdle left.

"We're just waiting on final approval from the insurer to go ahead, then the builder can get started," Ms Alford said.

"It's been a family hotel; we raised our kids in there, so we can assure everyone that this hotel will reopen, hopefully halfway through this year."