By Triana O'Keefe, editor Australian Hotelier

Built in 1896, and first known as the Canning Bridge Hotel, the Raffles Hotel as it is known today was opened in 1937, following a significant facelift in the art deco style of the times by William (Billy) G Bennet.

It has gone through plenty of changes throughout the decades – through the ‘refreshments at the dance hall’ days of the 1800’s, the swinging social scene of the 40’s and 50’s and a rock’n’roll phase of the 70’s and 80’s. It is one of the few truly iconic pubs in Perth.

Venue manager Vern Fogarty says Raffles has always been a massive part of the social fabric of Perth.

“Everyone has a Raffles story,” he says.

Colonial Leisure Group (CLG) bought Raffles in 2009. After five years of successful trade, the explosion of the hospitality scene in Perth’s CBD prompted the Raffles’ owners to modernise the offer in order to keep it relevant to the locals and those travelling out from the city after work.

In 2014, the venue underwent a significant re-imagination. When she swung open her doors in December 2014 after six months of work, The Raffles Hotel was ready for a new era of drinking and dining by the river, with a stylish upgrade and a food and beverage offering that is both accessible and inviting.

“The intention with the new design’s direction was to pay homage to the art deco look and feel of the venue. A lot of consideration was given prior to construction to respect the heritage aspects of the building as well as introduce something fresh,” Fogarty says.

“We didn’t want it to be just one thing slapped on top of another, but something that seamlessly integrated the contemporary and the historical.”

Several major aspects of the rebuild have contributed to creating a more cohesive atmosphere for the hotel. Doing away with the separate fine dining area upstairs has dramatically opened up the first floor to make room for the HWY Bar and the W.H. Kitson room. Raffles has reverted to having the majority of dining space in the downstairs and alfresco areas.

Fogarty explains the changing hospitality scene means people are looking for something more casual in general.

“Diners want a more genuine setting – a venue where drinking and dining are interchangeable and accessible to workers, locals, families and everything in between.”

For the complete Raffle's article, see the June edition of Australian Hotelier.

The Shout Team

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

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