A lot has changed in this city since the historic Premier Hotel was gutted by fire more than six years ago. ‘The Prem’ was nearly completely destroyed in the early hours of Friday, May 13, in 2016, in a fire which was later revealed to be an inside job by then licensee Graeme Cooper. Cooper was jailed for 10 years on charges of criminal damage by fire, fraud and creating a false belief while four other men who helped orchestrate the crime were also put behind bars. This week, the long wait finally ended, with the new-look Premier Hotel officially open for business on Wednesday after a $4 million redevelopment. It feels like a long time since we’ve had a drink at the pub smack bang in the centre of our main strip. In 2016, COVID-19 did not exist and Albany did not have a waterfront hotel, let alone a second one in the pipeline. Since then, new restaurants have popped up and businesses changed hands. There are more hospitality options in Albany now, but staff shortages seem to be a growing pain as our home city becomes more popular. The pandemic has opened West Australian eyes to Albany as they have explored their own State over the past two years. The reopening of the Premier Hotel only adds to our variety of pubs and restaurants. The heritage-listed venue, built in 1891, is rich in character and holds a special place in many locals’ hearts who grew up with it. The infamous arson attack put an end to that. I remember driving down York Street late on Thursday night just a few hours before the crime occurred in 2016. Waking up the next morning to the news of the fire left an empty feeling inside, like a part of Albany had been taken from us. It felt good to walk into the redeveloped venue this week and enjoy another beer. It had been far too long between drinks. As someone who was born and raised here, I love seeing our city grow. But it’s heartwarming to see one of the old icons back on her feet because the one thing Albany should never lose touch with is its history.