'Something to cheer about': PA puts Ipswich on the map
THERE'S no doubt that the complete transformation of one of Ipswich's oldest pubs has started to draw the attention of beer and food lovers across the nation.
But after winning the Overall Hotel of the Year in the regional category at the Australian Hotels Association national awards on Monday night, Prince Alfred Hotel owners Clive and Mary-Anne Johnson were full of praise for their 70 staff.
HAVING claimed the award for best hotel in last year's Queensland Hotels Association awards, the PA was among the national finalists for the awards announced at the Gold Coast's Royal Pines this week.
Mr Johnson said the announcement was not just a great reward for all the hard work of his team, but also a well-timed boost for the city of Ipswich.
"You can't get any better than this national award," Mr Johnson said.
"Honestly I think it's fantastic for all of Ipswich to say it's got the best of all the regional hotels in Australia.
"A lot of the hotels that win this type of award are backed by the big companies, whereas we had all local builders, architects and designers behind our renovations. It shows the calibre of the people we've got here."
The Johnsons have owned the PA Hotel, perched on the corner of Brisbane Rd and Bergin St, Booval, for 30 years, but it's over the past five years they have fully realised the potential of the old girl.
In 2012 they gutted the former bottle shop and replaced it with Charr'd restaurant; a modern, open space embraced by diners ever since it opened.
More recently, in 2015, the owners took what was considered a bit of a risk, and redesigned the old front bar, turning it into a beer-lover's heaven - known as Tapp'd - with 72 craft beer taps.
The renovations were guided by Ipswich architect Peter Johnston, builder Cec Miles and interior designer Allison Burke.
Looks can only get you so far, with AHA judges secretly visiting the venue and assessing it on a variety of criteria; most notably, customer service.
Venue manager Peter Coultas said it was a case where everything has to be on point at all times, because nobody knows when the judge might be at the venue.
"You've got to stay on top of the game in the hotel business because things are changing all the time," Mr Coultas said.
"Every 6-12 months we will go down to visit hotels interstate to see how they do things and how we might be able to improve."
QHA chief executive Bernie Hogan congratulated the Queensland recipients of Monday's awards.
"National accolades from hotel industry peers don't come without a lot of dedication and hard work," he said. "Each of these four winners demonstrate the remarkable quality of hotels we have in Queensland and why our industry is acknowledged nationally year after year.
"I'd particularly like to congratulate the Prince Alfred Hotel owners.
"Clive and Maryanne Johnson's incredible efforts to transform their venue into a world-class establishment are unparalleled and deservedly recognised by our industry's national judges."