Enjoying lunch at the Australian Hotel, Ballina, are locals Joe Warne (left) and Craig Mountford.
Enjoying lunch at the Australian Hotel, Ballina, are locals Joe Warne (left) and Craig Mountford.

Coastal pubs in a $15m facelift

By MARY MANN

BALLINA'S watering holes are fast being transformed into classier,%family-oriented venues.

Pub owners in the coastal area are injecting an estimated $15m into revamping their hotels in a bid to keep up with the area's growth and the competition in the industry.

The 1936-built Henry Rous Tavern is quickly disappearing, soon to be replaced by a new, modern hotel.

Local history buffs tried unsuccessfully to save the art deco exterior of the tavern, but redeveloper Steve McEvoy said its viability was at stake.

"We must provide the community with modern features or our competitors will take advantage of our%inferior features," he said.

Just down the street at the Ballina Hotel, refurbishments costing $2m are under way. Licensee Anthony%Keon said it would create a more%family-oriented environment.

The whole front bar area is being gutted and refurbished, and there will be a new beer garden.

"Ballina is experiencing a lot of growth and from what I've seen the hospitality industry is slow to catch up," Mr Keon said.

"We are working to change the face of nightlife in Ballina and set the standards higher." Locals Joe Warne and Craig Mountford said it was not necessarily fancy refurbishments which made a pub 'great' it was atmosphere.

They said good atmosphere was created by friendly staff, live bands and catering for families.

"If a pub caters for kids too it creates a safe feeling and deters the yahoos from hanging around," Mr Mountford, licensee of the Ballina Soccer Club, said.

Further up the river, locals are indulging in a new cosmopolitan bar and restaurant, The Point.

The bar opened earlier this month as part of Ballina's new Ramada%Hotel and Suites development.

At West Ballina, the Westower Tavern was transformed late last year into a stylish venue with a new kitchen, funky furniture and a deck.

The Ballina RSL Club is under-%going refurbishments costing $5m.



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