By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

The best of New South Wales’ hotels were honoured at last night’s AHA NSW Awards For Excellence, with pubs from all over the state winning big.

Almost 1000 respected industry leaders gathered at The Star in Sydney to toast the state’s best-performing pubs. Scott Leach, President of AHA NSW opened the ceremony commending all of the nominees.

“You’re the best in the state. We’re looking for innovation, and we’re looking at excellence in service.”

The awards were evenly shared between Sydney hotels and regional hotels, with awards accepted for categories as varied as Best Family Friendly Hotel – won by Sodens Hotel in Albury – and Best Social Media Activity, which was taken out by Fraser Short’s Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel.

There were a few big winners on the night with Merivale receiving six awards, including Overall Hotel of The Year City for Establishment, and Apprentice of the Year being bestowed upon Matthew Wills, a trainee chef at Palings and ivy.

The other major winner was The Lucky Hotel of Newcastle, which picked up five awards, including two major ones: Overall Hotel of the Year Country, and Best Individual Operator of the Year for licensee Hayley McCloy. Another Newcastle pub, The Junction, won three awards including Best Pub-Style Accommodation (Traditional).

The numerous wins for Newcastle pubs came as no surprise to AHA NSW CEO John Whelan.

“To see a single venue win five awards in one night is simply amazing.

“Then you have another local venue winning three. There will be a lot of happy hotel staff and patrons up in Newcastle today – the hotels up there really are second to none.”

Two stalwarts of the hotel industry were inducted into the Hall of Fame for 2015: Ron Roberts, an esteemed hotel valuer and publican who has been a champion of the industry since the 1970s; and Bruce Solomon, founder and CEO of Solotel, one of Australia’s most successful hospitality groups. Both men received standing ovations in recognition of their service to the industry.

The future leaders of the industry were also celebrated at the awards, with the five nominees for the 2015 AHA NSW scholarship being introduced to all present. The quality of the nominees was so great that the $20,000 scholarship was awarded to two finalists, Elise Hofman and Michael Montelelone. The three other finalists also received grants of between $5,000 and $10,000.

The other major award, Best Group Hotel Operator of the Year, was awarded to the Redcape Hotel Group, which also took out Outstanding Community Service and Achievement for Belrose Hotel and Best Gaming Venue for El Cortez Hotel. Dan Brady, Redcape's COO, was quick to point out who was behind the group's success.

"We are extremely pleased to have been recognised by our peers in this way. Redcape has and continues to have a very clear view about how to create and grow an exceptional group of pubs. Our long serving and loyal staff are the crux of our success and we enjoy the support of our local communities. Redcape is positioned for an exciting future."

All in an all it was a great celebration of the state's best hotels.

“These venues really do represent the best in the industry,” Whelan stated.

“Our venues employ more than 75,000 people across NSW and it is great to see the hard work of management and staff honoured here tonight.”

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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