Catho Pub hotelier Scott Brown
While many pubs enjoy local trade while striving to become destination venues, the iconic Catho Pub at Catherine Hill Bay is doing just the opposite.
The popular pub, which has long been known as a weekend destination for car clubs, social motorcycle groups and day trippers, is now finding itself literally in the middle of a brand new market.
Local families and new homeowners.
Ongoing development of the nearby sprawling Beaches Catherine Hill Bay residential estate is bringing with it the opportunity for the pub to service an entirely new market, not just on weekends - but every day.
Hotel operator Scott Brown, who has been at the pub for the past three and a half years, says it is a challenge not many operators come up against.
"The way this pub used to operate was you'd just poke along through the week and then the weekends would be hectic," he says.
"Looking at the records, this hotel has predominantly been where people have come to retire and do a few years owning a pub, whereas at my age it's different.
"So, it's important that we now look at targeting a weekly night-time trade from new locals, while making sure to keep weekends the same. We definitely want to protect what Catho Pub is known for, while also becoming the local pub for our new residents."
And for Scott, being a hotelier is all about community. So much so, that when the April super storms hit back in 2015 he went door to door around Catherine Hill Bay making sure everyone was safe. The pub also offered ice and other staples to the local community while utility services were down.
" We definitely want to protect what Catho Pub is known for, while also becoming the local pub for our new residents..."
At the moment, Catho Pub is a haven for tradies working on the construction of more than 100 homes in the new estate and in need of a plentiful lunch and after-work beer.
But Scott says he is also starting to see the new residents coming into the pub, trying out the food and having a drink.
"It's important people realise that despite the hotel's rustic appearance there is good food here, they can sit at the fireplace and have a chat, keep cosy in winter, and not have to cook.
"When we first came in we changed the menu to focus on fresh produce. I know that's worked well because in summer, some days we were running more than 400 meals from our kitchen.
"So we'll continue to focus on offering delicious, high-quality food that people have once and then want to come back for. I believe that is the way forward.
"That and the fact this hotel just has something about it. There's no judgement here, no matter whether you're old, young, retired, straight from work, don't work, bring your family, or come in on your own, the minute people step onto that veranda they're all equal. I can't explain it, but it's wonderful."
"It's important people realise that despite the rustic appearance there is good food here, they can sit at the fireplace and have a chat, keep cosy in winter, and not have to cook..."
And while the nearby residential estate may be brand new, Catho Pub is home to some incredible history dating back to the 1800s.
Not only did it serve the local mining community between the 1870s and 1987, it was also home to Australia's first indigenous hotel owner David Wotherspoon who bought the pub in 1971.
In the 2000s it was also one of the only places determined to be neutral ground by local bike gangs who would frequent the hotel on weekends, although the wearing of member patches at the pub has since been banned.
"We still welcome bike riders and social clubs to the pub, although there can be some misconception when people see a black leather jacket and a bike, but that's simply not the case anymore," Scott says.
"Social clubs with bikes or cars come here most weekends and you can spend a whole day just looking at the vehicles that are obviously their pride and joy."
In fact, the hotel recently supported a fundraising motorcycle ride which raised more than $25,000 for Central Coast Kids in Need.
The social ride concluded at Catho Pub where Scott put on a jumping castle, face-painting, assisted with raffles, auctioning, advertising and provided entertainment for the afternoon.
A recent charity ride at Catho Pub raised more than $25,000 for Central Coast Kids in Need
24 Clarke Street
Catherine Hill Bay NSW 2281
Ph: (02) 4976 1222
Nikki Taylor is Australian Hotels Association - Newcastle Hotels Representative