If you do a search for pubs named ‘The Pier’ in Australia you’ll see there is one in almost every coastal port, from Glenelg in SA to Port Headland in WA. One of the oldest, The Pier Hotel in Coffs Harbour, northern NSW (est 1905) has weathered over a century of changes in the industry, ebbs and flows of a regional economy and fluctuating local government ‘streetscape’ trends to triumph in this coastal City.
A lifelong career in car retailing (as owner of the local Toyota and Hyundai dealerships) makes the current owner Warren Skinner and his fashionista wife Kay unlikely publicans. Since their relocation from Brisbane decades ago, The Pier Hotel became their local ‘watering hole’ set amidst a restaurant village fronting the main arterial to the harbour foreshore precinct. The passion for the location, and the potential it promised, won out almost nine years ago.
“In the tourism off season, any Hotel in Coffs Harbour is vying for the same local population, so we set out to make an immediate change to the live music strategy at The Pier. All the Hotels were pretty much rotating the same acts around. Even if the act was great, if you saw them at one Hotel Friday night, you’re unlikely to go and see them Saturday night at a Hotel just a few kilometres up the road,” said Warren Skinner.
“So we made sure we gave everyone a go and searched further afield for our acts. Our current booker is really on board with this,” said Warren.
The Hotel now boasts live music three times a week with the genre changing to meet the seasonal mix of patrons. Additional performances spaces that are opening up as the Hotel renovates.
“We have renovated the top level of the Hotel to create boutique accommodation and have opened a new Cellar Bar in the area which was a bottle shop previously. Coincidentally when the hotel first opened, it was more of a guest house and where the Cellar Bar now stands is right on the spot of the first lounge area, so we have come full circle. It's a great space for acoustic sets,” he said.
“Its amazing where talent pops up. Brett Iggulden of Planet Lighting in nearby Bellingen not only installed amazing lighting in the Hotel, he and his band performed a jazz gig at The Pier and the crowd loved it.
**Brett Iggulden (The Red Onion Jazz Band 1960-2008) actually earned an OAM for his service to jazz and popular music in 2002.**
“The hotel game is very hard, and lots of publicans reading this will know old hotels require a lot of maintenance as well as constant renovation to keep up with trends. We are working hard to have the magnificent verandas reinstalled and paying for airspace is a new one on me, but I guess we have to move with the times. Owning the Pier Hotel is so rewarding and it has become like a treasured family heirloom, one we are continually polishing and bringing out to show.”