Interesting history for Cannonvale pub
THE Reef Gateway Hotel has an extraordinary history that all started with Dave and Joy Seawright who built the hotel in 1986.
John O’Neill, at 38 years of age, purchased the hotel on a Monday, March 26, 1990.
He will forever be thankful for what the Seawright’s created and honour their presence within the hotel for the rest of his life.
Under Mr O’Neill’s watch, the hotel and pub has now doubled in size and this Friday will be his 25th year as owner.
The Reef Gateway Hotel has undergone four major renovations, now has a Liquor Barn which is a 1200m2 superstore on site and a function room which is predominantly used by the RSL Sub Branch Airlie Beach.
Mr O’Neill is successfully living out the Seawrights vision.
He said some people had doubted the location of the pub when he was buying it as it seemed a long way from town.
“What are you doing? No one lives around there” is what friends first told Mr O’Neill in 1990 when he decided to buy the hotel.
“You’re a madman, it’ll never take off.” But Mr O’Neill had a gut feeling, to him it was the first thing you saw coming into town and the last when leaving, and little did they know that the hotel’s location would become more convenient as the area grew.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses as the first five years of business proved to be a struggle for Mr O’Neill.
“You know we are in recession at the moment. Well, I’ve seen that twice before,” he said. “My first Christmas in business the economy crashed. There was lots of rain and the Faust Dam had come down into town.”
Mr O’Neill was then adamant he had walked straight into a disaster. However, full of the jolly spirit that he still has, Mr O’Neill managed to break out a smile even when telling the tale 25 years later. “I had one customer who tried to leave each day but couldn’t get out of the swollen river so I was lucky that he had to keep booking in each night,” he laughed.
Mr O’Neill said after five years of working most jobs, everything started falling into place and before he knew it, another 20 had passed.
DATED: The Reef Gateway Hotel (red and centre) on Shute Harbour Road in February 1986.