Australian Hotelier May 2024

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Cover Story: Entain Venues Live has launched, kicking off with a DAZN partnership that brings more live sports content to pubs and clubs.

Group Profile: Epochal Hotels has officially launched, with venues of great historical significance.

Better-For-You Beverages: Low-carb, low-sugar and gluten-free are all characteristics proving popular among pub drinkers. 20 Beers For Winter: From dark beer classics to new styles, there’s a lot to love about a winter beer offer.

Bar and Cellar: The different kinds of bar set-ups working at pubs across the country. 28 Regional Story: Ex-publican Stuart Wiggins has taken on a Cape York pub to ensure his mate’s legacy lives on.


6 News: What’s happening in pubs across Australia.

30 Design & Build: Kpat Hotels and Pubs has reopened The Metropole Hotel in Townsville after a five-year closure.

34 Tales from the Top: Starward Whisky’s new venue is creating an army of ambassadors through fun in-venue experiences.

Editor’s Note

DRINKS REMAIN the foundation of any good pub offer – regardless of whether that’s during a blazing hot summer or a frigid winter. While there’s a simple formula to follow with the drinks categories to offer, it’s important to reassess each of these categories on a regular basis. There’s always innovations in drinks that will keep people interested, not to mention new consumption trends that pop up. Consumer behaviour is also constantly evolving, which needs to be responded to. A lot of those changes in drinks consumption are addressed in this issue. The big change that the industry has been talking about for a while now is the move towards more health-conscious drinking. For a long time the innovation in that space has been

in non-alc products, but now we’re seeing movement towards beers and other drinks that focus on features like being gluten-free or low/ no sugar. We’ve got that movement covered from p 14. Changing your beer offering to suit the season is also a no-brainer, so we look at the new and classic beers that are slated to be popular this winter from p 20. And no drinks offer works well without the right tech and infrastructure behind the bar, so we found out about different bar set-ups around the country (see p 24). We’ll drink to that!


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In the news



In a transaction of assets worth $70m, MA Redcape Hotel Fund has acquired the leasehold interest of inner-city Sydney pub The Criterion Hotel from Gallagher Hotels, while also exchanging the sale of the Crescent Hotel, Fairfield freehold property.

Holding a prime position on the corner of Park and Pitt Streets in Sydney CBD, The Criterion Hotel is an asset with rich history, while the recently refurbished Crescent Hotel sits in Sydney’s western suburbs.

The strategic transaction of the two assets, which was brokered by JLL Hotels managing director John Musca and executive vice president Ben McDonald, represents the largest pub transaction that JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group has managed this year.

In commenting on the transaction, Chris Unger, managing director of Redcape, said:

“The Fund is in a position to capitalise on opportunities to recycle assets and further enhance the portfolio. This deal is testament to that, and we look forward to

building on the great business that Patrick and Angela Gallagher have built at The Criterion and equally wish them much success at the Crescent Hotel.”

The acquisition of the Crescent Hotel marks Gallagher Hotels’ return to Sydney’s Western Suburbs, and managing director Patrick Gallagher shared his excitement.

“Having owned and operated several venues in Sydney’s west throughout our group’s history we cannot wait to play a key role in providing heightened amenity and a sense of fun for the Fairfield community,” stated Patrick Gallagher.

“We would like to sincerely thank Redcape for the opportunity to crystallise this transaction and the professionalism shown by the team throughout the process.”

The transaction demonstrates a move from both groups to capitalise on premium trading fundamentals in differing geographical markets, and according to McDonald, changing investment landscape and capital deployment

opportunities were the key themes underpinning the deal.

“With varying investment mandates and portfolio aspirations, this deal perfectly aligns with the corporate focus for both Redcape and Gallagher Hotel at this time,” he said.

Following a strategic asset divestment initiative, which realised around $200m and the extension of a $150m debt facility, Redcape has announced its intention to process redemptions along with the reopening of applications.

Unger said: “We are buoyed by the resilience of the pub sector, both in liquidity and operational performance. Customers are continuing to visit their local pubs though they are understandably more mindful of value.

“Thanks to steady revenue and effective cost management, we have experienced like-for-like venue EDBITDA growth since the September quarter which has allowed the Fund to increase distributions again.”

6 | Australian Hotelier

Odd Culture Group sells Melbourne venue to focus on Sydney growth

Odd Culture Group has sold its 50 per cent stake in Odd Culture Fitzroy to the other partner in that venture, local publican Gerry Nass. Odd Culture Fitzroy was first opened by Odd Culture Group and Nass in July 2023, and will trade under the new name Good Liquor and Wine from Monday 6 May.

James Thorpe, Odd Culture Group CEO, stated that the sale of the group’s only Melbourne venue would help in doubling the group’s footprint in Sydney this year.

“Between our plans to double our footprint in Sydney, and Gerry’s incredible investment and connection with the Fitzroy venue, this became an obvious, albeit difficult, decision for us to take. We need to keep our focus on this side of the border to deliver the incredible projects we have planned over the next year.”

Thorpe went on to thank the Melbourne community and Nass for embracing the Odd Culture concept, which explored the intersection between craft beer and natural wine along the theme of fermentation.

“The Melbourne community really welcomed us with open arms and we have loved meeting and serving you all. The sale isn’t at all something we anticipated but we know it’s the right decision for us and that our guests are in great hands as we hand over the reins to our friend, Gerry Nass.”

Nass, who has owned or managed pubs in Melbourne for over a decade, is excited to be taking the Fitzroy venue on the next stage of its journey.

“Over the last year, the team and I have developed really close relationships with our patrons and we are excited to take the business into its new iteration. All staff members will be staying on in their roles as the business changes hands.”

The original Odd Culture Newtown in Sydney is in its third year of operation and in line with the group’s focus on offering diverse late-night experiences, has just extended its trading hours until 1am, with the intention to extend to 2am in the next few weeks.

The Odd Culture Group portfolio currently comprises Odd Culture Newtown, SPON wine bar and bottleshop, The Old Fitzroy Hotel, The Duke of Enmore and most recently, new late-night cocktail bar and live music venue, Pleasure Club, which is licensed until 4am Wednesday to Sunday.

Ahead of its expansion plans for Sydney this year, Odd Culture Group is bolstering operations and currently looking to recruit a Group General Manager. More details on Odd Culture Group’s expansion will be announced in the months to come.

Publican syndicate buys Mismatch and 78 Degrees

Mighty Craft has entered into an agreement to sell Mismatch Brewing Company and The Hills Distillery, which makes 78 Degrees, to the United Publicans Group. The group is made up of around 15 pub groups with over 200 venues and industry experts including ex-CUB CEO Peter Filipovic.

The deal includes the assets associated with Mismatch and 78 Degrees, including the brands and all intellectual property, trading names, contracting arrangements, inventory, plant and equipment, and licences.

In a statement about the sale, Mighty Craft said the above elements would be sold to the buyer, “for cash consideration totalling not less than $7.2m (plus GST, if applicable).”

“The sale also includes the assignment of the leases for the Mismatch Brewhouse venue and the Mismatch and 78 Degrees production facility in South Australia.”

The consortium of buyers includes Filipovic, who told The Shout it is extensively a similar group to the one that bought Jetty Road and Hills Cider last year.

Filipovic added: “The group has the intention to have these brands within their outlets as well as grow the brands without.

“It is quite difficult to get into taps in the on-premise and this group enables us to get distribution in over 200 venues, without any kind of business agreement in place.”

He explained that the make-up of venues within the group is at the sophisticated end of the market and in terms of the number of venues, Victoria is first, followed by New South Wales, then Queensland and also some venues in South Australia.

Looking at plans for the brands, Filipovic told The Shout: “The reality is that it’s going to be easier for us to get onpremise distribution, but it doesn’t mean that national accounts and retail are not a focus. It just means that the way we build the brands is going to be focused on each of the brands and their own story.”

May 2024 | 7 NEWS
Odd Culture Fitzroy opened in July 2023

Entain Venues Live launches with DAZN content

Entain Venues has launched a new sports broadcasting platform for on-premise venues, with DAZN announced as its first partner.

Entain Venues’ DNA is partnering with venues to deliver great and engaging experiences.

Mark Sturdy,

DAZN, THE leading global sports entertainment platform, will become the first provider of live sports to the new Entain Venues Live platform in Australia, in order to increase accessibility to sports broadcasting for pubs and clubs.

The partnership with DAZN will initially see Entain Venues obtain exclusive commercial rights to a minimum of 12 global fights for distribution into licenced venues (pubs and clubs), as well as casinos. There is also an option for additional exclusive fights to be added to the agreement.

The new partnership was soft launched through the Ryan Garcia vs. Devin Haney fight in New York on April 20.

Mark Sturdy, managing director of Entain Venues, expressed his excitement about the new venture, stating: “Entain Venues Live marks a significant milestone in our commitment to growth and innovation by providing unparalleled sports entertainment experiences to patrons.

“Our offering will bring a more accessible solution for venues and we look forward to partnering with other sports from around the globe with similar objectives. Entain Venues’ DNA is partnering with venues to deliver great and engaging experiences.”

Echoing this sentiment, Pete Parmenter, EVP of Business Development at DAZN said: “This collaboration with Entain Venues will offer Entain pubs, clubs and other commercial venues in Australia access to a portfolio of incredible fights which are exclusive to DAZN.

“Entain Venues’ commitment to scalability aligns with our mission to deliver the blockbuster fights to fans worldwide, offering audiences the sport they want to watch, how they want to watch it.”

Entain Venues Live aims to enable venues of all sizes to offer unparalleled live sports experiences to their patrons and this initial deal with DAZN sets the tone for more to come.

8 | Australian Hotelier COVER STORY

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Past, present and future

Glenn Piper and his team announce the formation of Epochal Hotels, with a focus on highlighting the cultural significance of each of their venues.

HAVING LONG had experience in property investment and an affinity for the water, Glenn Piper decided to combine his areas of expertise and interest in early 2020 and acquire the Harbord Beach Hotel in Freshwater, in Sydney’s Northern Beaches region.

It had been owned by John Thorpe and Trish King for 42 years. Piper would regularly drive past the pub on his way to beach volleyball sessions, and would take note of its position within the local community.

“I always admired the prominent position that hotel took in the Freshwater Basin. It has beautiful architecture, that’s quite significant in its design,” Piper told Australian Hotelier.

“But then also, within the community, the ‘Harbord Hilton’ was always a place that was truly loved by the local community. So, many years later, I decided to sound out the owners that had been operating the hotel since the 70s and see if they would be interested in passing the heirloom over.”

After 18 months of discussion, Thorpe and King agreed to sell the pub. Even with no prior experience operating hotels, the partners were convinced that Piper would be the right custodian to carry on the pub’s legacy.

While Piper admits that there was a learning curve to pub operations, he had a strong vision from the outset for what he wanted the Harbord Hotel to be for the Freshwater community, and built a strong team of industry professionals around himself, including Michael Ternes (ex The Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda), who came on as GM of Harbord Hotel, and is now the Group General Manager of Epochal Hotels.

“I surrounded myself with the right expert minds to realise the vision I always had for that property. And so yes, it was a learning curve for me, but it wasn’t something I shied away from. I really embraced it as an opportunity to expand my experience in real estate into the hospitality sector,” explained Piper.

Since that first acquisition in 2020, Piper and his investment partners have gone on to acquire the Beach Hotel, Merewether in Newcastle; Q Station, Manly; Hook Island in the Whitsundays; and the Commodore Hotel at McMahon’s Point in North Sydney. The latest addition to the portfolio,

Harbord Hotel holds major significance in Australia’s surfing community
10 | Australian Hotelier GROUP PROFILE
Glenn Piper (centre right) and the Epochal Hotels team at Scarborough Hotel

announced last month, is the Scarborough Hotel in the Illawarra region, famed for its clifftop views of the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the announcement of the latest venue purchase, Piper took the opportunity to also announce the formal establishment of Epochal Hotels.

A significant event

After years of discussion, planning and the building of a signature collection of renowned hotels and other assets that have significant cultural impact in their coastal communities, the acquisition of the Scarborough Hotel felt like the right time to formally unveil Epochal Hotels.

“It did take us this long to settle on a brand that was aligned to what we set out to accomplish, and the impact we’re having in the hospitality space. We’ve got a collection of amazing assets, which are iconic in each of their locations. Scarborough Hotel is no different, so when that was added to the portfolio, we thought it was the ideal time. It’s a good moment to crystallise this vision and bring it to fruition,” stated Piper, who is now officially the CEO of Epochal Hotels.

The name of the group emphasises the team’s aims to take these already renowned assets, and start them on a new phase of cultural significance.

“The name of Epochal Hotels encapsulates our ethos and approach for each property within our portfolio. Epochal signifies something significant or important, marking the beginning of a new era. So, for me, that is a nod to the historical significance of each venue when they were first established – it was an epochal time – as well as our commitment to revitalising and reimagining these spaces for the modern era.”

The Epochal Hotels portfolio does have a very distinct characteristic of being comprised of assets that are near the coast, but Piper says it’s more than that.

“I’ve always been drawn to opportunities that have three components: they’re by the coast, they’re significant, and they’re iconic. And they have that heritage and history component to them. If you take a look at the assets, they’re all similar in that regard.”

Delving into history

A core component of Epochal Hotels’ operations is honouring each of its pubs’ histories and cultural significance by bringing that into focus with each renovation.

“For me, the heart of any establishment does lie with the connections to the community. I think there’s a responsibility to do the community and property justice, to call on its heritage, its history. These pubs has been serving the community for so many decades, and quite often, they’re some of the oldest buildings in those suburbs. So I always aim to make a property of that significance emblematic of the community,” explained Piper.

“It should represent the stories of the past, and it should be a celebration of the local community. Because the communities that these properties are sitting in, they do have fantastic stories, and a lot of them have contributed to wider culture, so I think that should be celebrated.”

For Harbord Hotel, that meant highlighting the hotel and local area’s significance in Australia’s surfing culture. This includes a mural by local artist Ash Holmes and framed pictures throughout the pub of local surfing history, as well as ensuring that the

May 2024 | 11 GROUP PROFILE
Harbord Hotel’s revamp heroes surf culture in its design and offer

beachside courtyard felt casual enough that surfers feel welcome to throw their board to the side while they enjoy a bite to eat.

shortly, and to be completed by the end of the year. The plans will draw on the pub and local area’s history – including the fact that the pub was established in the 1850s by John Blue, son of famed convict Billy Blue and became Sydney’s first ferryman and was nicknamed ‘Commodore’.

“The Commodore Hotel has a rich and brilliant history, actually providing us with a solid foundation to build upon. We’ll draw that inspiration from the local community, local area and the property itself. So I’m looking forward to sharing that with everyone when we reopen come summer.”

As part of the process of delving into the histories of each hotel, Epochal Hotels engages historians and other professionals to uncover the cultural significance behind each venue.

I think there’s

a responsibility to do the community and property justice, to call on its heritage, its history.

Glenn Piper, CEO,

The expansive renovation and offering at the hotel earned it the title of Hotel of the Year at the 2023 Australian Liquor Industry Awards, voted on by industry peers.

“It was truly an honour. Two years into our operations, to receive an award like that, we’re immensely grateful for the support from our industry peers,” stated the CEO.

At the Beach Hotel in Merewether, an 18-monthlong renovation has just been completed, and not only pays tribute to the pub’s coastal culture, but also includes nods to the area’s steelworks and brickworks, as well as a takeaway offer reminiscent of 1980s beach bars that were prominent at the time.

Next up on the list for the group to tackle is the Commodore Hotel, with renovations to commence

“That helps us inform the narrative that we want to tell for the venue. And we’ll try and carry that narrative through the design: from its aesthetic, look and feel through to the food and beverage that we’re offering through and staff uniforms. We take a lot of pride in delivering that, and it’s something that we’re very passionate about,” Piper stated.

That pride comes back to a fundamental belief of Piper’s that pubs are more than just a place for a drink or a meal.

“Pubs are a place where memories are made, friendships are forged. And a lot of the time it’s where community bonds are strengthened. So when we take that lens over a pub, it really sets us up to create something impactful. We’re really looking at these as community havens rather than just another place for food and beverage.

Bricks from old brickworks around Newcastle were used in the Beach Hotel renovation
12 | Australian Hotelier GROUP PROFILE
The Beach Hotel renovation blends coastal culture with steel city references
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14 | Australian Hotelier BETTER-FOR-YOU BEVERAGES

Adapting to healthier habits

Molly Nicholas explores the rising tide of better-for-you beverages on-premise, and the ways in which publicans are embracing the change.

TODAY, AS consumers become increasingly conscious of their health and lifestyle choices, a shift in preferences has given rise to growing demand for better-for-you alternatives to traditional products, and the on-premise is no exception.

This behaviour is representative of a broader cultural phenomenon that leans into health and wellbeing, and publicans are embracing the trend by diversifying their offering with beverages that cater to dietary preferences and wellness goals.

A driving force for this trend is the recognition of diverse consumer needs, with better-for-you beverages encompassing a spectrum of products including gluten-free, low-sugar, low-carb and no- and low-alcohol.

On one hand, the Global Data Top Trends in Alcoholic Beverages 2023 report cited health and wellness as an influential factor in alcohol purchasing decisions. But for many, these products offer more than a healthier alternative, they can sometimes be the only option that doesn’t exclude consumers with dietary requirements, allergies, or an intolerance.

According to the Australian Medical Journal, 25 per cent of Australians now avoid gluten (made up of 11 per cent total avoidance and 14 per cent opting in and out), and that number is closer to 40 per cent for millennial and Gen Z consumers.

TWØBAYS Brewing Co founder and CEO Richard Jeffares, who himself was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2015, says: “Consumers are more in tune with their bodies than ever before. They are more aware of how certain foods or ingredients affect them, even if they’ve not had a medical diagnosis for an allergy or intolerance.”


Redefining drink menus

While beer has traditionally offered these alternatives, it isn’t always the right drink for the occasion or to the consumer’s taste, and as a result, consumers are seeking innovation.

From his own observations of the industry, James Russell, beverage manager for Virtical Group which owns the Republic Hotel in Sydney, says patrons have come to expect better-foryou beverage choices in every category.

“For a long time, there has been mid-strength and low-carb beer options readily available in Australia, it’s been a part of our drinking culture for over a decade on draught. You’ve got Hahn SuperDry, Great Northern Super Crisp and Pure Blonde, all of these products are low-carb or mid-strength variations and they’re huge sellers.

“Having low-alcohol and low-sugar cocktails on a menu readily available is pretty standard now, and there has also been a huge push for RTDs to be readily available on draught as well as in cans, and that includes non-alcoholic options,” he added.

And within those categories, Nathan Alfrey, marketing manager at TWØBAYS Brewing Co, says consumers are looking for variety.

“There’s no reason for any venue not to have at least one gluten-free beer in the fridge or on tap, but like barley beer drinkers, gluten-free consumers probably don’t want to sit on the same beer all night.

“Consumers expect a choice. You would struggle to find a venue these days that doesn’t have at least a few gluten-free food options on the menu, so publicans already understand there is a market there and consumers will come if you give them enticing options.”

As better-for-you beverages establish their share of space in the pub market, Fabrizio Culici, general manager of The Royal Leichhardt, explains that these beverages initially attracted a


One of the biggest challenges publicans face in expanding their betterfor-you offering is the stigma that surrounds these products, and the idea that they compromise on taste. Based on his experience, Culici suggests that communication and trialing are the best ways to combat negative misconceptions.

“Some stigmas do exist around better-for-you beverages, like perceptions of bland or bad taste, or that of being associated with high income or elitism, particularly in a ‘locals pub’ type venue,” he says.

“Our staff will often offer a taste of new better-for-you beverages that are introduced to try dispel patrons of their beliefs as well as providing information on ingredients and possible health benefits.”

Despite these challenges, pubs are generally seeing a positive response to better-for-you beverages and a willingness among consumers to trial new products.

“There’s still a perception out there among the uninitiated that glutenfree beer doesn’t taste as good as barley beer, but the rate of sale says otherwise,” added Alfrey.

“We see it at tap points all across the country. When TWØBAYS goes on tap, it sells through at the same rate as any other craft beer keg.”

more health-conscious, higher income patron, but increased availability has driven a demographic shift.

“As societal health trends have become more dominant, and better quality and variety of better-for-you options become available, as well as being able to sell at a lower price, more patrons are starting to consume better-for-you beverages across the board. Not just those who value health, natural ingredients and sustainability aspects of the products.

“Over time, better-for-you beverages are transitioning from niche to mainstream,” added Culici.

Pouring potential

In many instances, these consumers are often key decision makers within their groups when it comes to choosing a venue. Gluten-free consumers are a great example of this, and Alfrey says those who cater to these needs are reaping the benefits.

“Our most successful customers are the ones that have really leaned into catering for the gluten-free community. And it is a community. These consumers talk, they seek out new venues, and they shout from the rooftops if they find a place that caters for them and gives a great on-premise experience.”

According to Alfrey, publicans shouldn’t ignore the needs of their health-conscious consumers or those with specific dietary needs, so, how are publicans successfully integrating better-foryou beverages into their existing offering?

Culici advises pub operators to seize opportunities by offering a diverse selection of healthier options in addition to, rather than replacing, their offering; an approach that has been adopted by

16 | Australian Hotelier BETTER-FOR-YOU BEVERAGES
TWØBAYS Session Ale has won Gold in the Gluten Free category at the World Beer Cup

W. Short Hospitality not only in The Royal Leichhardt, but also in The Australian Heritage Hotel, its second pub venue.

“We’ve noticed a shift among beer drinkers towards healthier options. At both venues we’ve adapted by expanding our beverage menu to include craft beers with lower alcohol content, gluten-free options, and non-alcoholic beers.

“The Aussie has been able to offer a much larger range of these options purely as that their key patronage are craft beer drinkers.”

When it comes to cocktail programs, Russell recommends including a selection of healthier alternatives from the get-go, rather than making changes as requested, so that they are enjoyed by consumers as intended and don’t require staff to make improvisations.

“In particular cocktail families you need the sugar to balance the drink, it puts weight on the palate and compensates for the sour and bittersweet elements. One way of approaching this in pubs is to push simple classics like the Tommy’s Margarita which uses agave syrup and contains less glucose and a lower GI than sugar.”

Alternatively, for pubs with minimal cocktail menus, Russell suggests simple three-ingredient build cocktails that cater to betterfor-you consumers and can be created with very little training.

“Every single one of my cocktail lists always has no- and lowalcohol options, often a Spritz, because it’s a dry, fresh cocktail that suits the Australian palate, and it’s easy to have those options already integrated without consumers having to ask for them,” he added.

Expanding your offering might be the first step in satisfying these preferences, but after many years of not being catered for, consumers

are often unaware of the options available to them as they do arise, and communicating that offering holds just as much weight.

Once patrons are through the door, the easiest way of letting them know about your better-for-you beverage offering is to integrate it into the same menu as traditional drinks.

“If it’s in the fridge but not on any drinks menu, then the consumer may not see it, or ask whether you offer one,” says Alfrey.

“As more and more venues offer [better-for-you beverages], consumers are getting better at asking for them, but after many years of not being able to find any in hotels and pubs around the country, there is still the assumption that there won’t be one available.

“You have the opportunity to delight these consumers and make them feel as included as every other consumer you welcome into your venue,” he added.

Sustained demand for better-for-you beverages means the onpremise is well positioned to encourage exploration and trialing, and publicans who are embracing the trend of health-conscious drinking are at the forefront of an evolving market.

“In the on-premise market, better-for-you beverages are likely to continue growing in popularity and availability, which should mean a win-win for operators as prices continue to normalise and stigmas around products continue to disappear, making them easier to sell,” concluded Culici.

18 | Australian Hotelier BETTER-FOR-YOU BEVERAGES

Sip and savour

Presenting different beer styles in winter is all about creating that cosy, hearty experience that brings patrons comfort on cooler days.

WINTER IS all about hunkering down. When patrons visit the pub in winter, they generally want hearty, comfort food and a drink they can sip on – drawing out and appreciating the experience. This is something that the team at Brewmanity Brewing Co is thinking about, in the lead up to winter trade at their new venue in South Melbourne.

“Tim [Miller] our brewer and myself, we like to look at things how we would like them. So, you know, at home, you get more into the comfort food and slower cooks and braises, and all that sort of stuff. So we treat our beer list the same way,” states Brewmanity general manager Jamie Fox.

Timeless classics and new hits

As is typical across the country, this means making more space on taps and in fridges for darker and heavier beers –your stouts, porters and the like. But there are other styles that Fox and Miller would like to introduce to anyone looking for a pint that they can savour during winter.

“We’re doing a smoked dark lager in in May. Smoked beers are an old style of beer called Rauchbier, a traditional German style beer. Tim’s brew has smoked the malts over Manuka wood, which is a softer wood so you get sort of a smoky flavour, but with more honey

characteristics. And we’re going to do that in a dark lager, so that it will be something interesting,” explains Fox.

“And then, in June, we’ve also got a beer, we’re calling it Choc A L’Orange. It’s a dark chocolate stout, but we’re going to infuse it with a little bit of blood orange.”

Brisbane’s newest pub, The Rose & Crown in Southbank, is a London-style gastropub run by Aussie Alex Derrick who operated pubs in the UK for over 20 years. He knows a thing or two about a pub offer in cold weather.

Unsurprisingly, one of his biggest sellers is Guinness, and Derrick has staked his claim as pouring the best pint of Guinness in Australia, after picking up a number of tricks and tips from his time in the UK.

“Everyone says it’s the best pint they’ve had in Brisbane, so I’m pretty happy with that,” says Derrick.

The other big seller for the Rose and Crown is its hand-pump cask ale – another British specialty, which has been flying out the door, much to the surprise of its brewer.

“That’s something that inspired the brewer, who originally told me I wouldn’t sell much of it. He’s now changed his tune!”

In preparation for the cooler weather, Derrick and the brewer are now changing the cask ale over to a darker, extra strong bitter ale.

And while darker beers tend to be heavier and with a higher alcohol content, for those looking to enjoy these typical favour profiles without the hefty ABV, Guinness recently launched its new 0.0 non-alc product in Australia.

Guinness 0.0 boasts the same smooth taste, balanced flavour, and unique dark, ruby red colour of Guinness, without the alcohol. Guinness 0.0 is also a low-calorie option for those choosing to moderate, with just 16 calories per 100ml, or just 70 calories per can. Having only been on the market for a couple of months, Guinness 0.0 is already being well received.

“The reception has been fantastic – with customers and consumers really getting behind the product for our launch just prior to St Patricks Day. The launch of Guinness 0.0 is catering to consumer moderation needs, without compromising on the signature Guinness taste that its drinkers know and love, so we were confident when launching we have a product consumers will enjoy,” states Albertus Lombard, Lion’s brand director –premium brands.

“We always see a large uptake of Guinness as the weather cools, and we expect the same for Guinness 0.0. In light of the growing trend of consumer’s choosing zero alcohol beer, we are looking

20 | Australian Hotelier BEERS FOR WINTER
Hand-pumped cask ale is the second biggest seller at Rose and Crown

forward to a cracking first winter season in Australia for Guinness 0.0.”

Derrick has been selling Guinness 0.0 at the Rose and Crown, and he says even in the temperate Brisbane Autumn weather, it’s been a big hit.

“It’s going really well. We probably go through a case and a half a week, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s fair bit.”

Creating events

As there is a slight shift in preferences to wine and dark spirits in winter, for Fox, positioning Brewmanity’s beer offering around events and pairing it with food is a great way to get people to try new beers.

“Everything has a day, like National Toothpaste Day or whatever,” Fox jokes.

“For instance, in early July, you’ve got Canada Day and Independence Day in the US. So we’re going to play that up with an American Nut Brown Ale with a little bit of maple syrup in it as well.”

IPA Day is in August, so Brewmanity is working on an English IPA, which is a darker style of IPA. Both of these brews and event days will be paired with food – poutine and gourmet hot dogs will be paired with the Nut Brown Ale, while gourmet pies will be paired with the IPA. Fox says these kinds of events and pairings help educate about dark beers, as well as encourage sales.

“What it does is when people see that it sort of formulates in their mind what this is going to be like – a nice pie and a beer – it helps them frame it up.

“Those events are all about introducing people to something different, getting them outside of their comfort zone in a safe way.”

Patrons may get out of their comfort zone with some of these beers, but what they might find instead is a real cozy experience that will have them coming back for more.

A simple description

Samplers and paddles are a great way to get people to try out new beers – all of which are on offer at Brewmanity – but Fox says keeping simple descriptions on hand is also a great way to simplify something that might otherwise seem daunting.

“We have digital menu boards with very simple sort of soundbites underneath each beer. For instance, we’ve got a Belgian Tripel on at the moment with a 9.5% ABV, so it immediately sounds challenging. But in our menu tasting notes, we’ve just got ‘Sweet, complex malt profile with orange and coriander influences’.

“That helps people frame those beers. That’s pretty important to get people across those more unusual and complex styles.”

22 | Australian Hotelier BEERS FOR WINTER
Guinness 0.0 was rolled out nationally in early March

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What’s behind the bar

The kind of technology used in bar operations varies dramatically from venue to venue. Caoimhe Hanrahan-Lawrence talks to pub operators about what works best for them.

THE BAR is the central part of a pub and can make or break a customer’s experience of a venue. Practical design decisions and the implementation of up-to-date and fit-for-purpose technology can improve efficiency at the bar, resulting in faster and easier service.

The right fit

Different venues will benefit from different kinds of technology, and careful planning can avoid wasting money on equipment that isn’t right for that specific venue.

During the recent major renovation of the Victoria Hotel Rutherglen, decisions about what technologies went behind the bar were guided by four key considerations: targeting guest experiences, staff comfort and safety, optimising bar operations, and minimising operational risks. Coowner Kate Halpin explained how these principles were integrated into the bar design plans.

“This essentially involved mapping the guest experience in the venue, identifying significant customer pain and/or effort points and incorporating design solutions,” she said.

The Victoria Hotel’s bar is custom designed with the equipment that was best suited to the venue and staff’s specific needs, such as reverse osmosis glass washers and automated chemical dispensing and watering systems.

“Other examples included ensuring that guest service areas did not overlap with staff drop-off and pick-up by having separate designated areas for these with drop off located directly over the glasswasher,” she said.

As well as enhancing efficiency, technology can aid in customer service, as seen at Melbourne’s Central Club Hotel. Co-owner Vincent Magrath told Australian Hotelier how the POS system both helps bartenders find products and start conversations with customers.

BAR AND CELLAR The Central Club Hotel’s main bar 24 | Australian Hotelier

Considering cocktails

With cocktails becoming more and more popular, an efficient space to create and serve drinks is a key part of an effectively designed bar.

The Victoria Hotel’s bar features a custom-built cocktail station that considers both cocktail preparation and clean up, with a spin jet spray rinser, oversize bottle well, tap, and dual ice wells.

“We worked with Marilojn, our stainless-steel manufacturer, to custom design a highly functional bar that maximises the cross section of guest experience and operator efficiency with equipment utility,” Halpin said.

In the Central Club Hotel’s whisky-focused Depot Bar, the cocktail station features a sunken ice well, a custom-built rail for condiments and garnishes, and an underbar freezer and glass chiller to keep cocktail glasses cool.

“A lot of thought was put into the cocktail station, making sure it was practical, that it had enough room for all the elements that you need for the classics on our list, and ensuring that there is a bit of theatre involved. We’ve got seven stools at the bar, so customers can actually sit and watch their cocktails being made.

“It’s set up in a way that everything’s within reach of one bartender. There’s no moving around required, and all the basics are within arm’s reach,” Magrath said.

“When a bartender punches an item in, the description includes the position on the back bar, and there’s a tasting note that pops open. They can talk a bit more about the product, and share a couple of key facts about it with the customer,” Magrath said.

Vertek digital tap decals are another way that operators can communicate with guests, as co-founder Shinae Vergone explained. Vertek decals are LED screens that sit atop a beverage tap, displaying anything from the beverage being poured, to details about promotions or upcoming events.

“Our main digital decal feature is that our V2 decals are remotely accessible. We can achieve offsite artwork changes very fast and at a high frequency if needed.

“The greatest feature of our digital decals is that we are an independent system, which means we do not rely on WiFi from the venue to make our content changes. This means that if there is any congestion on the venue Wi-Fi then we will have no issues accessing the decals,” Vergone said.

For storage of other drinks, sometimes old-school is still the most effective way to get things done, as Magrath has found.

“We’ve added lots of new wines onto our list, especially aged wines. We tried to figure out how we could use tech, but we’ve had to go back to bin numbers. The oldfashioned system of a number beside the wine on the wine list and a corresponding number on the three different areas around the venue where we keep the wine is the best way to do it. As much as we have staff who are up to date with their wine knowledge, with that many SKUs and back vintages, the easiest thing to do now is to put a bin number on them,” he said.

Practical placement

A bar’s placement within a venue is a key consideration in pub builds and rebuilds, as evidenced by the significant changes made to the floorplan during the Victoria Hotel Rutherglen’s renovation. Halpin explained the practical reasoning behind the new layout.

“We undertook a complete demolition, redesign and build of our bar, dining and alfresco areas to create a floorplan that features a central bar that serves as the heart and hub of the venue, servicing our dining room, beer garden, private events spaces and public bar. While the bar itself is a singular structure, the layout is configured so there’s demarcation between the public bar service area and the non-service zone, where our full table-service dining areas are fulfilled,” she said.

At the Central Club Hotel, the horseshoe bar is the first point of greeting for customers entering the venue, and the shape was carefully chosen.

The Manly Hotel boasts five bars and 54 taps
May 2024 | 25
Lighting, temperature and AV for each area of the Manly Hotel is controlled behind the bar

“We do get lots of people who still walk into a bar and want a conversation, and I think the best way of trying to introduce that conversation amongst guests who may not know each other is the horseshoe bar. As well, it allows the bartenders to become a part of the theatre of the bar,” Magrath said.

For Brisbane’s Manly Hotel, venue manager Antoinette Simic told Australian Hotelier that keg room access was of key importance, as the venue has 54 taps across five bars.

“The central bar boasts the largest selection of taps, making it easily accessible from anywhere in the venue and perfect for our table service. Adjacent to the main bar, the keg room ensures convenient access to stock. We’ve expanded our tap options by adding more fobs in the cool room, enabling us to offer two wine varieties and a cocktail on tap as well,” Simic said.

As a centrally accessible part of the venue, the bar is also a great location for control hubs, as seen at both the Victoria Hotel and the Manly Hotel. For the Victoria Hotel, this allows for easier and more reliable staff communication.

“All POS and printers are connected via ethernet, as opposed to unreliable Wi-Fi, and sound and security systems are directly wired and all centrally housed and operated from a comms hub located within the bar,” Halpin said.

At the Manly Hotel, temperature and lighting are controlled throughout the central bar.

“Our advanced lighting system not only manages temperature, fan units, and heating within the venue but also extends to the external terrace. Additionally, our exceptional sound and vision setup offers unparalleled quality, with user-friendly technology that enables us to customise zones according to the preferences of each area’s crowd,” Simic said.

While up-to-date technology is important, Halpin stressed the importance of the human element, both in terms of ensuring efficiency and enhancing guest experience.

“Good tech and equipment is simply your ticket to the game in terms of business fundamentals, but atmosphere and ambience is ultimately created through great service and good venue design that considers how guests will interact within the spaces, from day to night and from season to season.

“Ultimately our team training and procedures underpin our service efficiency, though investing in high quality equipment for long-term durability and performance was a priority for us,” she said.

26 | Australian Hotelier
The Victoria Hotel’s renovations considered both guest experience and staff efficiency and safety

In honour of a mate

After the tragic passing of Cape York publican Kevin Darmody, his friend Stuart Wiggins stepped up to ensure his pub, The Peninsula Hotel in Laura, wouldn’t be shut for good.

IN LATE April last year, Laura publican Kevin Darmody was tragically killed in a crocodile attack while out fishing. The news devastated the Laura community as well as surrounding areas, where Darmody was well known.

With no succession plan in place, the Peninsula Hotel has been closed since his death, and has been at risk of losing its liquor license – the only one in a 60km radius. Instead of letting that happen, Darmody’s lifelong friend Stuart Wiggins has stepped in to rescue the pub. He has left behind his family and job in Canberra, purchased the pub, and at the time of speaking to Australian Hotelier, was about a week away from reopening the hotel.

Darmody and Wiggins had been friends for more than 35 years, meeting in Canberra where they both grew up. They met at a pub Wiggins was working at, and not long after got into business together running pubs in and around Canberra, including Clancy’s Colonial Inn, which they owned for 11 years.

At one stage, Darmody went on a trip up to Far North Queensland, and evidently loved the place. He suggested to Wiggins that they look for a pub up there. They came close to buying one, but the opportunity fell through. Nevertheless, Darmody decided to move up to the region, and eventually he acquired the Peninsula Hotel in Laura, which he ran for more than 20 years and became a significant figure in the community.

“He’s a hard man and a fair man, you know? He’d give you the shirt off his back, and if he was your mate he would do anything for you. Some people come up this direction, and they think beauty, they can just get money out

Testing out new menu items before reopening
28 | Australian Hotelier REGIONAL STORIES
The bar has been renamed in honour of Kevin ‘Stumpy’ Darmody.

of the community. But Kev wasn’t here to make money, he just was a part of the community,” Wiggins stated.

Making the move

While not a stranger to the pub game, Wiggins had left that world behind a long time ago. After decades in pubs, he spent 16 years working with Hog’s Breath Café, before giving up hospitality all together three years ago to work security at Parliament House. After talking with his family, he decided to head up to Cape York to ensure Darmody’s legacy lived on.

“It was a big decision for me, but I just couldn’t let it sit. It would’ve devasted me to just watch the pub deteriorate and lose its license. Kev’s done so much hard work here.”

Thankfully the Laura community know Wiggins well, as for the past 20 years he has come up multiple times a year to help out during events.

“I’ve been coming up here for 20 years to help when they had the rodeo or the races on, or the Laura Dance Festival, things like that. So I’ve been coming up and down and I know all the locals.”

There’s been plenty of work to be done since heading up to Laura. With the pub closed for almost a year and left to the elements, nature had overtaken the site.

“It was a bit of a shock when I first had a look. All the campgrounds were covered in grass about 10 foot high because of the wet season, and there was mould everywhere, but we just smashed it in the last couple of weeks, we haven’t stopped.”

Besides cleaning up the property and working on logistics of getting everything in – Cairns is an eight-hour roundtrip for a supply run – Wiggins wanted to also ensure that the reopening of the pub honoured Darmody in some way. Known in Laura, by his nickname Stumpy, Wiggins has renamed the bar Stumpy’s Bar, with Darmody’s nephew getting a plaque made.

And with the pub about to open, there’s real anticipation and plenty of support from the local community for the town and its surrounding areas to have a community pub again.

“I think they’re all excited, because for 12 months they’ve had to get to Lakeland [60 km away] just to get some grog, and they’ve only got the local store where they can buy a little bit of groceries and a pie or something like that.

“But besides that they’ve had no food outlet or pub for the last 12 months, so it’s been a big loss for the community and the surrounding areas. A lot of people used to come down and have a beer or a yarn or catch up with people.”

While Wiggins has bought the pub, with his family back in Canberra, he doesn’t expect this to be a long-term project. He’s planned to get through the next dry season and then re-assess. And in the mean-time, if an offer came along for someone to take on the pub permanently, he’s ready to consider it.

“A lot of people have said to me that this was a long way from nowhere and that it’s a big job. I know all that, but I wouldn’t have been able to stand it if I just sat at home, thinking the pub’s gone to ruin and I could have stopped that. And that’s why I’m here right at the moment.”

What a way to honour a mate’s legacy.

It was a big decision for me, but I just couldn’t let it sit. It would’ve devasted me to just watch the pub deteriorate and lose its license. Kev’s done so much hard work here.

Stuart Wiggins at Peninsula Hotel
It took weeks to clear the property of overgrown vegetation

Reviving a landmark

Kpat Hotels & Pubs has reopened the Metropole Hotel in Townsville with a fresh new look.

THE METROPOLE Hotel in Townsville has undergone extensive renovations, reopening in February this year with a modernised look which encapsulates the history of the hotel in a contemporary format.

Now under the operation of hotel developer and operator Kpat Hotels & Pubs, the refurbishment of the historic pub brings a new a sense of character to the existing architecture and heritage elements, providing a point of difference for Townsville.

The result of a longstanding relationship with former owners Minor Hotels Group, Kpat Hotels & Pubs acquired both the pub and the Oaks accommodation hotel it sits beneath in an offmarket transaction in May 2023.

The Metropole Hotel is a welcome addition to the group’s portfolio, which includes 400 hotel rooms either in operation or construction between Toowoomba, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast, and a second existing pub, The Rock, in Toowoomba, with more on the way in Mooloolaba.

After a five-year hiatus in which the Metropole Hotel sat dormant, the group felt it was time to overhaul the space with a reinvigorated offering. Managing director Kenneth Wagner told Australian Hotelier that the purchase was made on an opportunistic basis.

“We were certainly attracted in both a pub and accommodation perspective to the Townsville region, based on the amount of infrastructure work, and generally the economics in that region. The environment is really flying,” he said.

30 | Australian Hotelier DESIGN & BUILD
Images by WÜLFE Marketing

Paying homage

Being the closest pub to the wharf on the banks of Ross Creek, the Metropole Hotel is steeped in maritime history. Originally built in 1887, the pub was otherwise known as ‘the first and last’, being the first pub to serve wharfies and the military as they arrived in Townsville, and the last as they returned to their boats.

Honoring the heritage of the building and its place in the community, the latest reincarnation is a destination in its own right.

“The façade is heritage listed, so we had to restore the façade in a format that reflected its original architecture, and the timber balustrades on the staircases, which are heritage listed, have not been touched since 1887.

“Being that it is a bit removed up that end of Palmer Street, we knew that to get it to work we’d have to make it a destination. The brief really was to bring it back to its origins, a contemporary version of its heritage format, and deliver something that the community can get engaged in and drives people up to that end of Palmer Street,” said Wagner.

While the redesign of the venue pays homage to its roots as a worker’s pub, this element is also reflected in the style of service, and the pub continues to attract this crowd.

“It’s for all demographics, but it’s a real workers pub, we’re seeing a lot of workers and wharfies at the moment. But we also pick up the families on Sundays, we host 21st and 30th birthdays upstairs on Saturday nights, it does have a fairly broad demographic,” added Wagner.

“More than anything it’s about the way we treat our customers. Even though it’s a really nice fit out, it’s not an exclusive environment and we’re happy to have anyone along.”

Being a historic asset in Townsville, the renovation has also attracted many older members of the community who have enjoyed reminiscing about the history of the hotel.

Inside the design

Though unassuming from the side of the street, the doors of the Metropole Hotel open to a striking appearance and patrons are greeted with a mixture of patterns, colours and textures that work in harmony together.

The refurbished space comprises a bar, bistro and gaming room downstairs, and two contemporary function rooms upstairs. Design was overseen by

A grand performance

After a successful soft launch in February, the Metropole Hotel invited local community members to enjoy a live performance from Shannon Noll on Saturday 16 March to celebrate the reopening of the community venue.

“It was a free concert for Townsvillians which went down really well. It was an effort to sell ourselves and show that we’re here to participate in the community and create a destination up that end of Palmer Street,” said Wagner.

May 2024 | 31 DESIGN & BUILD
Shannon Noll performing at a free concert adjacent to Metropole Hotel

Taryn Raso from Cayas + Ward and blends contemporary fixtures with the traditional elements of the hotel.

Wagner said: “The gaming room when we got there was a real 2005 reno, quite a dingy little back corner set up. We’ve restored and extended it into quite a grand format, so it’s a really premium gaming offering, and the bar has been relocated.”

Moving away from the club-style bars that were also popular round 2005, the bar has been reinstated in a clean-cut, straight format to create more space in the bistro and dining area, along with the addition of a 120-seat outdoor space.

The main challenge with the Metropole Hotel was working with the heritage features, but still making the venue feel modern. Expanding on the direction of the interiors, Raso explains that the goal was to maintain a classic, timeless feel.

“Because of the look of the building, the heritage and colonial aspects, we landed on a design that was inspired by the French Quarter-style, the colonial plantation style,” she said.

“We wanted to keep the interiors fairly light and warm with natural textures, such as the feature tiles and the diamond patterned look with neutral tones. We incorporated greens, and a lot of timber on the bar front, stone tops, and French-wash

painted walls with classic dado detail throughout and the highest detailed skirtings.”

Working with the existing structure, which had a void in the middle of the ground floor space, intricate coffers were integrated with LED lighting as a prominent feature.

While the operational side of the pub hones in on its reputation as a worker’s pub, this was also a consideration in the design of the venue.

“The idea for the external space was to keep it simple and approachable, to make it a laidback space for anyone to come and have a drink outside, and that flowed through to the space downstairs too,” says Raso.

“We kept it multifunctional with different types of seating, dry bars and big screen TVs, and to the side of that, we have the lounge-banquet style seating. There are different zones that cater to everyone, and going upstairs we made the colour palate a little bit darker for functions and conferences.”

32 | Australian Hotelier DESIGN & BUILD

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Creating an army of ambassadors

With a renewed focus on accessibility and a sense of place, the new Starward Bar and Distillery experience is organically creating ambassadors for the brand.

STARWARD WHISKY officially launched its revamped Distillery and Bar last month, including a new bar and hospitality experience within the venue. The new offer includes a first-time food menu headed up by a new head chef to complement the Starward Whisky portfolio, as well as a variety of experiences that whisky newcomers and aficionados alike can enjoy on the premises.

At the launch founder David Vitale spoke about the distillery and bar’s ethos, in ensuring that it helps to remove the elitist reputation surrounding whisky.

“We’ve already established that we make great quality whisky in Australia, and really what I wanted to do is get it out of the special occasion cabinet and into the sharing cabinet. Most people that love whisky have two cabinets: one not to be touched, and one that’s like ‘help yourself’,” explained Vitale.

“We wanted to be in the help yourself section. That was our intention from the very beginning – something that was accessible and something that was really approachable, but most importantly talked to the place it was made.”

The public has been hugely receptive to this focus on accessibility at Starward, with Vitale stating that since the soft launch of

the distillery and bar at the beginning of the year, it’s been the ‘plus-ones’ – people who’ve known less about the category or not considered themselves as whisky drinkers – who have been the biggest and loudest advocates of the brand after visiting.

Another part of removing the gatekeeping around whisky is how the drinking of whisky is approached.

“Of course, you can drink Starward neat in a twee jacket with a pipe next to a fireplace if that’s your thing, but I get more excited by thinking of Starward as something you can drink before dinner as much as you can drink after dinner, or the fact that whisky can be both a drink and an ingredient. We have no problem taking all of these other great spirits and making them into great cocktails – why not whisky?,” David asked.

“This new bar and distillery is a celebration of that.”


A large component of Starward’s hospitality offer within the venue is to offer a variety of experiences that will help visitors immerse themselves in the art of whisky-making.

In an exciting first for Victoria, Starward offers a ‘Fill Your Own Bottle’ experience

at the distillery, allowing visitors to get a first-hand experience of bottling their own whisky, straight from a barrel of their choosing. You can then customise the label before the bottle is presented in a take-home gift box.

Guests can also take a step into Starward’s working distillery to see how their whisky is made, in their Distillery Tour and Tasting. There is also a Whisky Masterclass and Barrel Tasting experience on offer.

For a food-and-whisky experience, The Distillery Chef’s Selection dining experience – created by new head chef Drew Traynor (ex Eau de Vie) – will guide you through a three-course sip and grazing menu, with each dish highlighting each stage of the whisky-making process, with a paired whisky cocktail to enjoy with each course.

The point is not only to educate visitors on Starward’s products, but to make them excited about what they’ve just experienced, and tell their friends.

“If we can create an army of ambassadors that then leave and talk about their experience at the distillery, that’s only going to make people more curious about what we do,” stated Vitale.

It’s a great lesson for any venue looking to broaden its appeal.

David Vitale Founder Starward Whisky
34 | Australian Hotelier TALES FROM THE TOP

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