THREATS that a bomb would explode inside the Ballarat Lodge Hotel and Convention Centre caused police to evacuate staff and nearby businesses yesterday.
The threat came from a Melbourne caller about 12pm who said there was a bomb in the building which was programmed to go off within the hour.
Police spent about one hour scanning the building and its grounds for an explosive device.
CFA operations manager Gavin Hope praised the courageous police who searched the premises with little protection.
A bomb squad from Melbourne was expected to be called had a device been found.
“Fortunately it didn’t come to that,” Mr Hope said.
Main Road was closed for more than an hour with police road blocks set up at Lal Lal Street and Elsworth Street.
Staff from the centre stood in groups well clear of the buildings, while business owners watched on.
Golden Point Cafe owner Chris Mallard said police swooped on her business about 12pm.
“They came rushing in and told us there had been a bomb scare next door and that we needed to evacuate,” she said.
“That’s all we know.”
Local tradesmen working at a nearby house also couldn’t believe their eyes.
“It’s not often you have to stop work due to a bomb threat,” one of the men said.
Police cleared the area about 1.30pm and allowed staff back on site.
Traffic resumed flowing on Main Road about the same time.
A concerned Commerce Ballarat chief executive officer, Jodie Gillett, was relieved to announce that the CGU Commerce Ballarat business awards were to go ahead last night.
“I was a little bit nervous,” she said.
Ms Gillett said the Lodge had been exemplary in their preparation, with food and other catering requirements organised well ahead of schedule.