The PKD team

To think that 25 years ago I was working out of my parents’ corrugated iron shed in Freemans Reach, a suburb just outside of Sydney. That I would be sitting here today proud as punch and still working in hotels is such an amazing feeling. 

The first foray into the world of beverage for Paul Kelly Design was at Gas Nightclub on Pitt Street back in late 1997 when we created a subterranean world in an old Sydney Water Gas Tank deep below the surface.

The first hotel project we completed was the Tea Gardens Hotel in Bondi Junction. While it was certainly a jump from the depths of Pitt Street, I was introduced to Peter Wadsworth, and this was my invitation into the world of hotels, and I haven’t looked back since.

Paul Kelly Design has completed over 160 pubs in Australia with the majority located in Sydney, but also some regionally and interstate, and our company ethos has always been based on quality over quantity, which has limited some of the projects we have been involved in.

The projects we have completed though, are testament to the dedication of the hoteliers to their craft. 

When we first started in 1997 the industry was very different to the current market – gaming machines were just coming in, and no one made money out of food.  Trying to get design into the marketplace had its challenges as it hadn’t yet been proven that design actually increased a venue’s profitability or turnover. 

Design was, therefore, always coming second to staffing, operation, and security, and while this is still the case, back then these things would dominate decision-making, leading to the creation of venues that were more like a castle with a moat.

When Justin Hemmes opened the Establishment, however, this changed everyone’s perspective on both potential turnover and the integration of design. We could now take hoteliers down and show them first-hand how the patrons were taking up the offer. This visit down to George Street was cheaper (although not as much fun) as a ‘research trip’ to Vegas!

There are so many great stories of working with publicans, but the best part is obviously sharing a beverage and having a laugh, as they are always good value and have been 100 per cent into their trade and the potential for their venues.

Working in the hotel industry has allowed me to break some new ground – not just in design but also in operation and legislation. 

When the smoking regulations came in, we quickly worked out a way to maximise the ability for a room to comply, and we have completed this with great success for our venues, with many adopting our strategies. There were certainly a few sleepless nights though, when going through the calculations again and again.

Paul Kelly Design has grown from the days of working in the old shed to a great team of dedicated long-term associates, and our projects are underway all over the country. 

We are constantly being challenged and we love it each time we get the opportunity to work on a new food and beverage operation.  

Our aim in business is to provide the best in every aspect of hospitality design to the client and the customer, even if it takes us a little longer and costs a little more. At the end of the day, our projects are timeless, successful and standouts in the industry.

We look forward to working with you for the first time or again!   

The Shout Team

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