The annual highlight of Victorian hospitality took place Monday night as the industry’s best were honoured across 40 categories at the 2024 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence.

The Association welcomed 1,200 guests at Crown Palladium for the sold-out gala dinner and awards ceremony celebrating the industry’s strength and successes.

“At the 2024 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence we celebrated the hospitality delivered through Victoria’s remarkable pubs and hotels,” stated CEO Paddy O’Sullivan.

“The Awards recognised the significant commitment and dedication of our publicans, hoteliers and their staff.”

Highlights this year included the Local Legend award, acknowledging outstanding community service and achievement, granted to Stewart McKinnon from Barwon Heads Hotel, who not only runs a social club at the pub, bringing people together for meals and driving elderly locals to appointments around town and as far as Melbourne, but also produces the Friday Night Raffle, which has raised thousands of dollars for charities and needy locals in recent years.

Debuting this year was the Best Cocktail List of The Year award, going to Paradise Valley Hotel in Clematis for its innovative creations such as the Ultra Violet and Caramilk Punch cocktails, and modernised classics in the Limoncello Spritz and Spicy Margaritas.

The acclaimed People’s Choice Award, voted by the general public, was presented to the Star Hotel Sale, beating more than 146 pubs to retain its crown as the ‘Local’s Local’ – having won the title in 2023.

Marilyn Bell & Pat Sheehan, Rising Sun Hotel

The most prestigious award of the night, the Nikakis Benchmark Award, is named after the late Nick Nikakis and recognises an individual or organisation that has been an inspiration to the industry, through sustained performance and commitment. In 2024 it was awarded to Pat Sheehan and Marilyn Bell, of the Rising Sun Hotel in Bendigo. It was said they “exemplified outstanding dedication” and service to their community and hospitality.

Overall Hotel of the Year – Regional went to Middle Hotel Korumburra, beating 12 other finalists, while the Metropolitan crown, fought by 11 contenders, went to the Notting Hill Hotel, fondly known as ‘The Nott’.

Notting Hill Hotel

Major award, Best Hotel Group Operator, was taken by Kickon Group, acknowledged for a range of quality venues throughout Melbourne, including The Terminus in Fitzroy and The Continental in Sorrento.

Marquee event partner Tabcorp praised the work done by pubs every day.

“A few years back we were dealing with the pandemic, and more recently we see pubs working through economic challenges like inflation and cost of living,” said Tabcorp CEO Paul Carew.

“Despite these challenges that you all face, you still show up for your customers day in and day out, and for that unwavering dedication you should be recognised.”

See here for a full list of winners for 2024.

Kickon Group
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