Pubs with rooms - Australian Hotelier editorial feature




"You can’t have a good hotel with [poor] restaurants and bar. Everything leans off one another. It’s about making sure they stay on your property and don’t leave,” says Lawrence Dowd of Colonial Leisure Group of his prized guests.

Dowd is articulating the obvious triangular connection between food, beverage and accommodation, particularly away from urban settings. Getting all three right, together, helps ensure you can drive multiple revenue lines at the same time.

Guests overnight vastly improve your chances of shifting breakfasts and coffees in
the early morning, while evening guests not concerned about getting home after a meal with drinks will also be contributing important revenue by lingering longer and spending larger in the evenings.

Colonial Leisure Group is currently renovating some accommodation-focused hotels, including Mount Mulligan Station west of Cairns and the luxury lodge at Orpheus Island in Queensland, where rooms run at $1,700 per night and up.

Says Dowd, “the market for luxury lodges is competitive, you’ve got to do it well to go after that high-end luxury international tourist dollar.”

While many pubs aren’t competing in those expensive realms, many of the principles for sleeping hotels are equally applicable to drinking hotels.

“The days when hotels had pretty average restaurants and bars [are over],” says Dowd. “Now they’ve got to be a hero, as good as the accommodation itself.”

This inevitably means a squeeze on pubs solely concerned with food and beverage. The answer, for those in suitable locations and the right ethos, can be providing accommodation options.


Bermagui Beach Hotel in coastal NSW was built in 1895 and is located in the centre of town. Owners Yannis Gantner and Luke Redmond re-opened the hotel in late 2017 having returned to their childhood home town to reinvent the town’s only pub. Luke had his first beer at the hotel and accommodation has become important to the overall proposition.

“We have completed recent renovations to rooms since taking over with many more to come,” says Lou Redmond, Luke’s partner. “The pub is quickly becoming recognised for its accommodation offering with huge growth in occupancy compared with past data.”

Year on year results show 130% growth in revenue, resulting from improved occupancy by 14%. Part of this is attributable to the venue’s “fresh, youthful approach and outlook, with focus on good simple pub food” says Lou, partly it’s the hotel’s new focus on improved wine and beer quality, partly it’s the modern renovation, partly it’s the focus on being family friendly and partly to their new bookings engine powered by Pub Rooms.

The 18-room accommodation offering is broad to attract as wide a base as possible, starting with basic accommodation for fishermen, backpackers to family motel rooms and ocean view king rooms with large balconies looking directly over Horseshoe Bay and Mount Gulaga.

“Accommodation is so important for this pub,” says Lou, “and we will always continue staying relevant and progressing as the industry evolves.”

Dowd’s Colonial Leisure Group, well-known for its drinking hotels portfolio, has quietly set about expanding into accommodation options also. These include the Portsea Hotel on the Mornington Peninsula, (this month’s Design & Build feature), a country coastal casual hotel with affordable accommodation right the way through to rooms with both en-suites and shared bathrooms.

Combined with sweeping views of Port Phillip Bay and a modern look and feel, early results show the recent renovations are having the desired effect.

“While many hoteliers in the past had left their rooms unused, they are now looking for additional sources of income to complement the food and beverage offering,” says Jeannie Armstrong of Pub Rooms.

“Guests in rooms also encourages more guests in the bar and to eat in the restaurant. To be successful in accommodation sales, selling your rooms via the online distribution network becomes essential.”


A year on from AirBnB launching their Siteminder partnership to now list hotels, including pubs with rooms, in addition to private accommodation, the whole dynamic of accommodation continues to evolve. Technology solutions now enable hoteliers to better connect potential patrons with underutilised spaces.

Throw in millennials’ stated desire to accumulate experiences rather than possessions, and the opportunity for pubs able to offer impressive views, cultural experiences nearby and an authentic pub experience on site, will thrive.


When considering your accommodation offer, Dowd believes that at the luxury end of things, “it’s all about your partners and product mix in those hotels. A lot of hotels are very selective about what goes into the mini bar, what food partners they use, all of that stuff is very important.

“People are really interested in the layers of who you work with because it says a lot about the hotel. It’s almost an endorsement. From the mini bar to the design of the uniforms, it’s always a talking point. Through to events that we associate with. That’s important too, [when] working with fashion labels or premium beverages.”

“The days when hotels had pretty average restaurants and bars [are over]... Now they’ve got to be a hero, as good as the accommodation itself.”

This article originally published in Australian Hotelier March 2019 Edition

Discover Australian Hotelier on the web | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter |E-edition