EXCLUSIVE: Transformed iconic Rocky hotel to open in weeks
FANTASTIC food, creating a warm, inclusive atmosphere and returning the Heritage Hotel to its former glory is the key focus of new managers Mat and Liz Matheson.
From the roof to the flooring, every square inch of the historic 1898 constructed Rockhampton hotel on the corner of William and Quay Sts has been refurbished in some way, shape or form by the Rockhampton couple and their team of dedicated tradies over the last 12 months.
And they are almost ready to reveal the extensively revitalised local icon to the Rockhampton community.
The Morning Bulletin got an exclusive sneak peak inside the popular venue yesterday as Liz and Mat worked to complete the finishing touches ahead of its reopening.
The Heritage Hotel closed suddenly in March 2015 and lay dormant until local developer and businessman Wayne Riddell purchased it for $1.4 million in an auction in November 2015.
Mr Riddell then reached out to Mat and Liz, who helped renovate and run the venue 10 years ago, to bring the Heritage back to life.
With extensive damage caused by Cyclone Marcia in 2015 and years of wear and tear, Mat said the renovation had been extensive.
"We have really taken our time with what we've done and Wayne (Riddell - owner) has spent a lot of time and energy making sure the place is done right. It should last another 100 years hopefully," Mat said.
"The entire facade came off and there is a new roof. It has been extensive. Nothing has been overlooked.
"There was a lot of water damage and it took us a long time to fix that. It has been let go and there was just certain stuff that hadn't been maintained in the past.
"The renovation is a big credit to Jack Dempsey, he has been the builder here and a lot of his time, effort and expertise has gone into the renovation. Mark the electrician has been great too."
With plans to return the pub to its roots and run it as a traditional hotel, Mat and Liz have changed the format of both the ground and second floors to evoke a friendly, brighter atmosphere.
Mat said everyone had taken a lot of pride in the project.
"We're looking to restore the hotel to its original glory and make it a focal point of the community.
"Previously it was more of a nightclub and very dark and dirty. With the new colour palette and design we have really tried to brighten it up.
"We have used a lot of pressed metal and have some nice wallpapers, Italian tiles and pendant lighting and different design elements that will really highlight everything.
"We are looking to cater to all generations. We are not in the business of turning people away."
The ground floor now consists of the main bar and extensive, open plan dining area with space for live entertainment while a dedicated gaming room and large function space is located in the former restaurant and cocktail bar.
On the second floor, Mat and Liz have completely transformed the beer garden area with lush greenery, exposed original brickwork, new flooring and an extended bar.
They hope to revitalise Rockhampton's 'Sunday Session' culture in the bright, somewhat rooftop terrace inspired space.
"The beer garden is the main focal point. It's a big point of difference to everything else offered in town it's a very unique space and we are really going to showcase that," Mat said.
"We have really brightened it up up there with a lot of greenery and we have installed a retractable roof .
"There will be a DJ working the dance floor upstairs (former RnB room) but it won't be trap music or dub step style as we are really looking for it to compliment the beer garden and create a sociable atmosphere."
The third floor of the venue has been updated and will cater for back packer style budget accommodation.
While Liz and Mat didn't want to reveal all they had planned for the venue, they said providing unique and quality food was their main focus.
"The venue is going to be very food orientated. Getting the food right is going to be the core of our business. Rocky has 100 steak houses and we don't want to be a steakhouse. We want to offer something unique," Mat said.
"It will be modern Australian cuisine and we are also looking at doing some New Orleans style of flavours for something different with a few signature dishes.
"We are looking to cater for all generations and will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week."
With their management team locked in and their expected opening day a few weeks away, Mat and Liz are about to begin recruiting for about 30 casual staff members.
To apply, keep an eye on the Heritage Hotel Rockhampton Facebook page over coming days.