Conic Arlberg Hotel is on the market
THE Arlberg is for sale. Negotiations are under way.
John Perks and Carol McDonald have decided it’s time to move on to greener pastures.
Today, the Arlberg is a vastly different establishment from the one I grew up with.
So I decided to have a coffee with John and reminisce over his history with the mountain and the Arlberg in particular.
John’s first links with Buller commenced in 1978 when he and Neville Kay purchased Mansfield Mt Buller Bus Lines.
Six years later John took over the business, and also acquired Ski Centre Mansfield and the Mirimbah Store.
In 1987 John tried to buy Alpine Retreat but for a range of reasons, it fell through at the final hurdle.
Then in 1988 John formed a syndicate through his relationship with Joe Pulitano and purchased The Arlberg, Kooroora and Arlberg Merrijig.
Subsequently MMBL was transitioned into the group.
He successfully steered all businesses but 1993 was a tough snow season with max depth of only 40cm (with most of the season below 20cm).
At that time there were 350 staff across seven locations spread between Mansfield and Buller.
With mounting pressures the decision to sell Ski Centre Mansfield (to the Aldinger family) and Arlberg Merrijig was undertaken that year, and Kooroora and MMBL followed in 1994.
These were the days when Arlberg was a rocking pub.
There was the huge main bar.
Nooky’s Restaurant was always in demand with great food and wonderful atmosphere.
Downstairs was the intimate Cellar Bar, complete with piano, where Billy Joel’s Piano Man reverberated every night around 3am.
The Arlberg was open till 5am and was party central.
How is this for a line up… Joe Camilleri & the Black Sorrows, Linda & Vicka Bull, Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, Hoodoo Gurus, Hunters & Collectors, Painters & Dockers, Mark Seymour, and who could ever forget Relax with Max?
There would be a team of 13 crowd controllers and the place would be jumping until 5am.
Some 1500 patrons would squeeze in - some sneaking in through guests’ bedrooms - with another 500 queued up at the front door on Bourke Street.
In fact, to clear the crowd, John would offer people waiting in line a free taxi ride to Kooroora and free first pot. Different times. Of course all this was extremely draining for management and it became increasingly difficult to fill rooms.
So in 1996 the decision was made to become a family entertainment environment.
The bar was reduced by 800m2 and replaced by apartments and rooms, all for the greater good.