6 December 2023

From best burger to winning wine, Canberra's hospitality champions revealed at 2023 AHA ACT Awards

| Dione David
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Peter O'Malley with two men, accepting the John Press Award at the 2023 AHA ACT Awards

Peter Barclay of King O’Malley’s (centre) took the prestigious John Press Award. Photos: AHA ACT.

With innovation and collaboration, the future of hospitality and tourism in Canberra is bright, according to the recipient of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) top gong in the ACT.

In front of over 350 attendees who had gathered at the National Arboretum, King O’Malley’s manager Peter Barclay claimed the prestigious John Press Award at the AHA ACT Awards for Excellence.

He said Canberra had done a remarkable job of shaking off the COVID cloud and continued to “punch well above its weight” in the number, diversity and quality of industry businesses.

“The challenges coming out of COVID have been persistent. Canberra is not unique in this, but looking at my fellow winners, finalists and nominees, you can see Canberra has the highest standard of hospitality venues and most diverse range of any in Australian city – and they’re all world-class,” he said.

“I believe this, combined with innovation and collaboration, is why our hospitality and tourism businesses continue to rally in our region.

“I’m particularly excited about our upcoming collaboration with Bentspoke Brewing, who also won awards on the night. The King O’Malley’s team had the privilege of sitting with Richard Watkins from Bentspoke to collaborate on a new beer we’re releasing in November.

“We’re so excited to be able to do this, and feel lucky to be in the kind of city that allows for those sorts of innovations because you don’t get that everywhere.”

Two staff members from Doma Hotels

The DOMA Hotels team was proud to claim the Best Innovation, Sustainability and Environmental Practice award.

Peter won the biggest award of the night for his “outstanding contribution to the industry and community”, which includes advisory positions aimed at making the industry safer and better for workers and patrons alike, enlivening Canberra’s nighttime economy and planning and promoting tourism excellence in the nation’s capital.

The award also recognised Peter and King O’Malley’s support of community events and charities, and its own innovative approach to community support. This included its annual Beard Competition and a recent free skin check clinic in the pub.

“Twenty-five people were able to have their skin checked; in fact, a couple were identified as needing follow-ups and went on to have biopsies. Playing a role in the early identification so that we can catch cancer at its treatable stage showed us that using our accessible places to reach people on important issues can really make a difference,” Peter said.

READ ALSO Meet the owner of Canberra’s best beard who took the crown by a whisker

Despite the pub’s impact, he said the award was an unexpected honour.

“What wonderful recognition of the time I’ve spent in the industry, working with an incredible range of people over the years,” he said.

“I have to congratulate all the winners, finalists and nominees. Nobody would be in this industry without a passion for it.

“It’s been a privilege for me that I hope I’ve been able to share with the team at King O’Malley’s, to work in this exciting industry in such an amazing city where the future is looking bright.”

Staff from The Dock in Kingston Foreshore holding an AHA ACT Award for Best Sporting Entertainment Venue

The crew at The Dock took out the Best Sporting Entertainment Venue.

Many businesses took out multiple awards, including Mercure Belconnen Canberra, East Hotel, Jamala Wildlife Resort, Public Bar and Luna.

The QT Canberra team was stoked to claim both Best Wine List and Best Steak – a pairing to be proud of, according to general manager Joel Gordon.

“I’m immensely proud of the Capitol Bar & Grill team receiving these awards,” he said.

“This reflects dedication and passion applied to delivering the finest produce and an exceptional guest experience.”

AHA ACT general manager James Hawketts called the winning lineup a “fantastic representation of what the ACT has to offer in the hospitality, accommodation and tourism industries”.

“This Gala Dinner was a celebration of the industry’s resilience as we continue to navigate the challenges of this post-COVID-19 landscape,” he said.

“New challenges continue to arise, but we continue to find a way to not only survive but to thrive.”

READ ALSO Aubergine’s Ben Willis will open new restaurant in DOMA’s Realm Precinct

The award winners were:

  • Bartender of the Year – Gabby Brown, Molly Bar
  • Housekeeper of the Year – Erica Saunders, Mercure Belconnen Canberra
  • Human Resources Talent – Lynda Bailey, Mercure Belconnen Canberra
  • Best Sales & Marketing Talent – Aimie Maclaine, Lala Hospitality Group
  • Employee Excellence in Service (General) – Simon Buchanan, Bentspoke Brewing
  • Employee Excellence in Service (Accommodation) – Katrina Li, Midnight Hotel
  • Chef of the Year – Adrianne Davo, Luna
  • Best Wine List – QT Canberra
  • Best Bar (Presentation & Service) – Luna
  • Best Family Friendly Venue – Public Bar
  • Best Late-Night Entertainment Venue – 88mph
  • Best Wagering Venue – Casino Canberra
  • Best Sporting Entertainment Venue – The Dock
  • Best Cocktail, Lounge or Small Bar – Bar Beirut
  • Best Conference & Functions Venue – Hotel Realm
  • Best Draught Beer – Quality Bentspoke and Badger & Co Brewers Association
  • Best Outdoor Dining Experience – Edgars Inn
  • Best New or Redeveloped Venue (General) – Luna
  • Best Work Health and Safety Venue – Casino Canberra
  • Best Innovation, Sustainability and Environmental Practice – DOMA Hotels
  • Best Traditional Pub, Inn or Tavern – Bentspoke Brewing
  • Best Steak – QT Canberra
  • Best Burger – The District
  • Best Pub Eatery – Public Bar
  • Best Casual Dining Venue – Ostani
  • Best Restaurant (General) – Pomegranate
  • Best Restaurant (Accommodation) – Jamala Wildlife Resort
  • Mid-Range Hotel of the Year – Ramada
  • All Abilities Hotel of the Year – East Hotel
  • Superior Hotel of the Year – East Hotel
  • Apartment/Suite Hotel of the Year – Burbury
  • Deluxe Hotel of the Year – Jamala Wildlife Resort
  • Accommodation Member of the Year – Todd Handy, East Hotel
  • John Press Award – Peter Barclay, King O’Malley’s.

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I guess the burger judges haven’t been to Evatt Takeaway yet.

Gregg Heldon6:08 pm 13 Oct 23

Glad for The Basement getting best live venue

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