After a devastating fire ripped through the hotel in January, owners Nick and Megan Gregorski are pleased to welcome patrons to the Port Office Hotel once more.

Just two years after the Gregorskis purchased and did a major renovation of the pub in Brisbane’s CBD, the hotel was gutted by a fire that originated in the ground floor dining room kitchen. All patrons and staff were safely evacuated, but the fire had quickly spread throughout the ceiling cavities, causing significant damage throughout the hotel.

The damage turned out to be a lot more extensive than first imagined, with the Gregorskis thinking the pub would only be closed for a month. Once the extent of the renovation needed was revealed, it was the support of the community that kept the owners going.

“The thought of walking away definitely cross[es] your mind, however we love the place, we love Brisbane, we love being in the heart of it. When we were considering what to do, Meagan looked at me and she said ‘But all these people rely on us, and we rely on all of them.’ You don’t realise you’re such a part of the community until it’s taken away.”

Seven months on, and the Port Office Hotel is open once more and fully operational. The long timber front bar is serving up drinks again and the award-winning Port Office Dining Room is open for lunch and dinner, under the guidance of executive chef Graham Waddell. On the first floor, the Colonial Bar is once more taking bookings for functions.

The space has also had a slight refresh, with lighter floorboards and a feature wall in the Dining Room with blue panelling and tobacco leather details.

“Reopening after the January fire is a massive relief. We’re excited now to be open and just so happy to see our customers back and to have things going again, to be working in the pub and doing what we love,” stated Nick Gregorski.

“It’s such a beautiful pub and we were so devastated and stressed for the last six months, so relief is probably the biggest feeling we have right now. I’ve got my smile back.”

The Port Office Hotel is no stranger to tragedy, with its 155-year timeline dotted with moments of overcoming disaster. The hotel has weathered three major floods since 1893, and been rebuilt and transformed by several of its owners in that time. Its cultural significance was recognised in 1992, when it was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

Megan Gregorski credits the support of a small group of loyal patrons, affectionately known as the Front Bar Army, with the efforts to reopen the pub after the January fire.

“When news of the fire spread, this incredible group of local regulars materialised, ready to do whatever was needed. While they couldn’t help with the rebuild, they certainly maintained their loyalty, even when we only had two beers on tap and three lunch dishes on the menu created from a tiny kitchenette upstairs.

“They kept coming every day. Without them, it would have been heartbreaking. We call them The Front Bar Army, and we cannot thank them enough.”

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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