Since taking over the Lambton Park Hotel two years ago, licensee Michael Millett has given the pub a fresh focus, bringing with him a deep love of community and youth support.
A father himself, Millett understands the importance of ensuring children and young adults are given every opportunity to succeed in life. But it was while participating for the first time in the 2019 Variety Bash that it really hit home how much he could do to help.
“When the cars came into the schools at 6am and I saw the kid’s faces light up, that really had a big impact on me,” he said.
“Before that event, I didn’t know anything about Variety. I was blind to it. But at the time I was at Lakeside Village Tavern where we raised almost $20,000 for the event. I had no idea what to expect when we headed off on the Variety Bash and that first day seeing the kids be so excited has sat with me ever since.”
For Millett, the experience of providing much-needed equipment and supplies to schools in regional NSW was unforgettable and set him on a new path, using his role within the hospitality industry to start giving back to both Variety, local sporting clubs, and other causes.
“You don’t realise how much Variety and other organisations matter until you get a first-hand perspective,” he said.
“On the Bash we went to towns I’d never heard of in the middle of nowhere to give these little schools $5,000 worth of play equipment or whatever they needed, and it was like Christmas to them.
“That experience of actually seeing kids living with disabilities and financial hardship and the joy it brought them really opened my eyes. If I can use some of my means and position in this industry to give back and make a difference, then I think it is my responsibility to do so.”
“You don’t realise how much Variety and other organisations matter until you get a first-hand perspective..."
Since taking over the pub in 2020, Millett and his team have been raising about $500 per week for Variety-the Children’s Charity and recently hit the target of just over $10,000 in the five months.
And while Variety remains high on his list of recipients, he is also turning his attention, and his heart, to the Karuah Aboriginal Mission.
“I heard about the organisation and that there’s an over-18s basketball team that comes down to Newcastle to play on weekends,” he said.
“Through chatting with the mission, I know they support kids and young adults and I’m looking to sponsor that team and see what else we can do to help.
“I have two kids and if they didn’t have me, I’d want to know they would still have every opportunity in life. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for all children and young adults, particularly in indigenous communities. I just don’t want any kid to ever feel like there’s no one out there willing to help.”
While his commitment to the community has grown exponentially over the past two years, Millett said the ability to give back will increase even more as the pub begins a renovation that will see a second level added to the venue.
“Another level upstairs is going to open up a lot of possibilities for us to be more involved in the community,” he said.
“Pubs often get a bad rap, but the truth is they are community hubs. They are the places people go to meet, celebrate, commiserate, and everything in between. This pub has been here for 115 years and is no different. Having another level will allow us to say yes to a lot more non-profit groups and play an even bigger role in our community.”
“Pubs often get a bad rap, but the truth is they are community hubs. They are the places people go to meet, celebrate, commiserate, and everything in between..."
The new level will also provide a new open-air space for the general public to enjoy with a full bar, cocktail menu, dining, and lounge area.
“We are really going to bring that beautiful park across the road into the venue with a balcony and glass doors, lots of greenery and light colours,” Millett said.
“It will fit 100 people and be its own destination. When you get to the top of the stairs you won’t be in Lambton Park Hotel anymore, it will be a different world up there.”
The Lambton Park Hotel holds weekly raffles and a One Hundred Club, along with quarterly fundraising events including a current boat give-away. The pub is also holding Easter and ANZAC Day events, as well as regular nights featuring Drag Bingo and Paint Parties.
Level Two of the venue is expected to be complete early 2023.