Ben and Myles are bringing back one of Newcastle's most iconic buildings in spectacular style
I think it’s going to be the most highly anticipated hotel relaunch that I’ve seen in Newcastle and possibly even Sydney. What Myles and I have aimed to do is be very respectful of what people’s memories are and not pull it all away, pare it back and refresh it.See our handpicked guides to Newcastle
Wanting to leave the Sydney hustle and bustle behind and get back to their grassroots, business partners Ben McBeath and Myles Plenty have set themselves the almighty task of bringing one of Newcastle’s most iconic buildings back to life.
With the first stage set for completion in the first week of November the new, but old, look Great Northern Hotel is well on its way to being one of the most impressive refurbs undertaken in the city to date.
Chatting with the guys you get the impression there’s no better duo to take on the mammoth task with Ben and Myles not only coming from a long line of
hoteliers but with a collective of Sydney based hotels and restaurants on their books, including the Arthouse, Treehouse and Deck bar in Manly to name
a few. The guys let us in on their vision for the hotel and why locals should be getting super pumped for the grand opening.
What brought you to Newcastle to take on the task of rebuilding The Great Northern Hotel?
There are generational ties here for us, plus being a fifth generation hotelier, as a family Muswellbrook is where we first started as hoteliers, so we’re somewhat coming back to where it all started for us.
We have a vision to really entrench ourselves in Newcastle, our modus operandi for the last two–three years has been to move Myles and my business away from Sydney and slowly move it north again. Where both in the process of moving our families here again which is really exciting.
We’re slightly fed up with the hustle and bustle of the Sydney CBD. Newcastle has so much more to offer and we’re excited for where the city is heading. Everyone is talking about what’s happening in Newcastle.
Where is the refurb at and what can we expect
We’ve got a good year and half of development ahead of us with the renovation rolling out over various stages. The ground floor will be first, followed by the roof bar. Once the fit-out starts on the hotel, which is likely to happen in the first quarter of next year, work will then commence on level one which will contain a huge function space, ballroom and a large new commercial kitchen.
We haven’t changed the concept from day one, there have been some minor adjustments but essentially it will have a high-end luxe look and feel. We are working in with the current art-deco theme without being to cliché, and remodelling the building back to what it was in the 40’s. It didn’t need theming, the aesthetic was already written into the building it’s just about highlighting the beauty of what is already here.
Our major focus is on creating a modern-day pub with very good quality food at pub prices, in saying that we don’t want it to be anything too vanilla, so it’s a fine balance.
Our focus has always been around the food, rather than just beverage. We’ve both operated gastro pubs before and worked with Chefs of a certain standard. When it comes time to draft the menu we’ll be working with as many local suppliers as possible to highlight the earthy and organic flavours that are so easy to access around Newcastle.
The back bar, which is in one of the most unique rooms in the whole building with the Aboriginal motifs, will have a luxe sports bar feel to it. The challenge in this area will be to retain the original aesthetics and have them brought to the forefront as opposed to being lost inside a new development, which can often happen.
The Roof bar
It’s definitely the jewel in the crown, being Newcastle’s first real rooftop bar. I can comfortably say that it will have one of the best rooftop views that I’ve seen in the world, it’s a pretty special space. Along with its 360-degree city outlook, on a clear day, you have views beyond Port Stephens.
Our aim is for it to be one of the top five rooftop bars in Australia, if not one of the best, and with the views that it has, it’s going to be pretty hard not to be.
It’s a big area, 430 odd square, significantly larger than what most people think, and will be licensed for 350 people, so you can imagine it’s a fairly grand space. There will be a more restaurant kind of feel about it given it will largely be catering to hotel guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
That Rooftop Pool
I can clarify that there is a pool going on the roof, there will be a fourth finger added to the outside of the building which is what the pool will be built upon, and will be for hotel guests to enjoy. The original cantilever design was accepted by the council but not by heritage so we’re still working through the motions of that.
The bigger focus for the rooftop area will be the alfresco style of dining, but the pool will be a spectacular addition to the building.
By completion, there should be just over 100 rooms and at this stage, it's looking like it will be between a 4 and 4 ½ star hotel. Which is why we’ve worked with a concept and design that aligns the hotel, the ground floor and rooftop bar so there is a similar level of expectation throughout the hotel, as opposed to just being your stock standard corner pub.
Heritage has been a big consideration, particularly on level 1 which is grade 1 heritage listed and has presented its challenges, but it is also the most beautiful room in the whole building.
All the concrete cancer that has been cut out over the last two years, there was more work in there than we could have ever imagined, once you take the skin off you start realising the scale of the problem but now that’s been done we’re very much on the front foot.
Our major consideration throughout the process has been that we didn’t want to bastardise the space, which people wouldn’t have appreciated, didn’t want it to be ostentatious and overboard, it’s all about being respectful and conservative.
There’s been a lot of delays, around two years’ worth, but now that we’ve been given the opportunity it’s bang, straight in and moving as quickly as we can.
Just how exciting a development is this for the city of Newcastle
I think it’s going to be the most highly anticipated hotel relaunch that I’ve seen in Newcastle and possibly even Sydney.
It holds a soft spot for a lot of Novocastrians and has a long history. What Myles and I have aimed to do is be very respectful of what people’s memories are and not pull it all away, pare it back and refresh it.
If we have our hopes and dreams come true for the Great Northern it will become a local institution for locals once again and reinvigorate people’s love for the space as we open up each stage, we’ll definitely make ourselves go greyer trying.
It’s been three years almost to the day from concept to delivery, it will actually be two weeks short of three years by the time we first open the doors. It’s not been without its challenges or hurdles but we feel like we’ve managed to hit the ground running with the local community and now that we’re in there we know it's going to be quite exceptional.