The Australian Hotels Association Victoria (AHA Vic) held its 2023 State Awards for Excellence at Crown Palladium on Monday night, celebrating Victoria’s diverse array of venues and influential figures.

The sold-out gala dinner and awards ceremony saw 40 categories for Victoria’s pubs and people across regional and metropolitan venues. More than 1200 people attended the awards ceremony to celebrate the best Victoria’s hospitality industry has to offer.

Paddy O’Sullivan, CEO of AHA Vic, said: “The AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence is a celebration of the accomplishments of Victoria’s pubs and hotels, where we come together to recognise outstanding hospitality service and delivery.

“We also express gratitude to the dedicated pub and hotel staff for their invaluable contributions to ensure the success of our industry.”

AHA (Vic) Executive General Manager, Mike Barouche acknowledged marquee event partner, Tabcorp, saying: “We appreciate Tabcorp ongoing support, and the significant value of each and every AHA (Vic) partner that contributes to the success of this unique gala event.”

The ‘Nikakis Benchmark Award,’ named after the late Nick Nikakis, is the most prestigious award of the night which recognises an individual or organisation who by their sustained performance and commitment, serve as an inspiration to all in the industry.

In 2023, Brian Kearney was honoured with this title. Brian’s tenure as Director of Liquor Licensing and CEO of AHA (Vic) made a significant, positive impact on the licensed hospitality landscape in Victoria. His career contributions to the Victorian hospitality scene have seen positive change in liquor, gaming, wagering, smoking and planning.

The highly anticipated ‘Overall Hotel of the Year- Metropolitan’ was presented by Carlton & United Breweries. Contenders for 2023 included The Bay Hotel Mornington, The Camden Hotel (Caulfield South), The Grand Hotel Warrandyte, London Tavern Hotel (Richmond) and the title was won by the esteemed Terminus Hotel Fitzroy North, the pub also claimed Chef of the Year and Best Presented Beer.

The Terminus Hotel is owned and operated by Kickon Group and Founder & Director, Craig Shearer told Australian Hotelier: “We are ecstatic, I’m filled with immense pride to have our Terminus Fitzroy North receive three awards including best presented beer, our culinary director Jake Furst receiving Chef of the Year and most notably receiving Hotel of the Year.

“Over the last few years, we made the conscious shift to be a values-based company, we measure the success of our venues through the feedback and joy of our people and customers.

“To be nominated in 14 categories is an incredible achievement and we are thankful that our team continue to deliver amazing.

“We are always focused on changing the game of the Australian hospitality industry and we are proud that our commitment to providing an exceptional standard of hospitality has been recognised by our peers.”

The regional counterpart included finalists such as the American Hotel Echuca, The Middle Hotel Korumburra and Torquay Hotel to name a few, and it was the Grovedale Hotel that took home the prize of ‘Ian Larkin Overall Hotel of the Year – Regional.’

The Grovedale Hotel, has been family-owned for a number of generations with Joel Taylor, and his father John, currently at the helm.

Joel told Australian Hotelier: “We were absolutely thrilled with our awards, its such an honour to be recognised on such a special night that the AHA Vic put on and with such high quality competition, it means so much. The success we’ve had at Grovedale is a true reflection on the staff we have empowered to run our hotel and carry out our vision for hospitality.

“For me, hospitality has always been about people, and the management at the Grovey have been able to create a work environment and culture that people just want to be around. Both John and I are incredibly proud of our team and they are deserved winners of these fantastic awards.” 

The ‘Local Legends’ award acknowledges outstanding community service and achievement within the hospitality industry by certain individuals. This year, Ben Fisher from The Middle Hotel Korumburra was honoured with the title of Local Legend of the Year.

Over 76 pubs contested for the coveted ‘People’s Choice Award’ presented by Treasury Premium Brands and voted by the general public, was The Star Hotel Sale, emerging as the fan-favourite among its community.

This year, JBS Hospitality Group were announced as the winners of ‘Best Hotel Group Operator’ in recognition of the group’s exceptional performance in managing a range of highly regarded venues throughout Melbourne, including Dick Whittington Tavern, Grosvenor Hotel, Hotel Brighton, Melbourne Central Lion, The Bank on Collins, The King Hotel, The Nixon Hotel and True South.

The full list of 2023 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence winners and finalists, is available on the AHA Vic website.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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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