Celebrating with the boss
“I DON’T have any race horses, I don’t have any big boats, I don’t have any play toys but I do have a pub and a good one at that,” said Reef Gateway owner John O’Neill who will celebrate 25 years of proprietorship tomorrow.
It’s been a big journey for the 63-year-old pub owner that all started with him bartending for private events in Sydney as a young adult.
“But I barrack for Queensland,” Mr O’Neill added.
He had found his niche at a young age and Mr O’Neill was managing and owning hotels before he knew it.
After Sydney, he travelled to Ipswich to work for a hotel he had a 1/20 share in.
He then worked and managed hotels and pubs around Brisbane before purchasing the Blackwater Hotel.
A decision to live closer to the water resulted in Mr O’Neill taking on the lease of the nationally-famed Eimeo Pacific Hotel for 22 years and then the Mount Pleasant Tavern both in Mackay.
A gut feeling led him to the Reef Gateway Hotel and after an initial five year struggle, business was flowing and he even managed to start his own business.
“I just convinced the local blokes drinking at the pub to come work for me, I pay them and then they’d be back at the pub that night,” Mr O’Neill laughed.
Mr O’Neill said the community appreciated the Reef Gateway Hotel but were probably not aware of the hours and years that had gone into it.
“I think I was one of the first operators to actually stay on site and to this day, we’re probably the only hotel in Queensland that gives an RSL a permanent home,” he said.
Mr O’Neill’s motivation is simply waking up each morning and asking himself what is he going to do today that will lead to something great and with 25 years under his belt, it’s a mantra to live by.
BIG ACHIEVEMENT: Tomorrow marks Reef Gateway Hotel owner John O’Neill’s 25th year in the business.