A beachside gem with a community outlook and an all-day appeal.

The Collaroy:

(02) 9981 7333 or
Story: Christopher Holder The Collaroy is shipwreck. Well, at least originally it was. A steamer called the Collaroy went down off the coast in 1881, which accounts for the suburb’s name. The Collaroy Hotel is now a fresh new venue that’s going full steam ahead, serving the Northern Beaches community from dawn to dusk and beyond. Last time venue checked in on this site back in 2005 [Issue 4], owner Brian Adams had poured considerable dough into a multi-level venue called Surf Rock that fairly throbbed at night, but it became clear that its daytime mojo wasn’t there. The Collaroy’s General Manager, Alistair Flower, himself a Collaroy boy from way back, had his eye on Surf Rock and suspected he knew what was keeping the space from being the ‘all-day, everyday’ rock-solid, dependable local it should have been.


“It took us two years, but we final got the DA approval to create giant sliding windows on the northern aspect,” recalls Flower. “It has opened up the coastal view to the beach towards North Narabeen, and has really transformed the venue in the process.” Rory O’Brien, Construction Manager for the builder Arcon, picks up on how the gamechanging new aspect came together: “The original Surf Rock Hotel encompassed three terraces. The Collaroy renovation required the demolition of the fourth, all-important northern terrace, which we then reconstructed to present as being similar to the three original terraces, only this time allowing an expansive view to the water.” Once the venue’s ‘face’ was turned to gaze up the coast, the interior could be modified to follow suit. Rory O’Brien again: “A major design element of the hotel was the redirection of the main bar to face the northern aspect. This required extensive demolition of the interior so as to reconfigure bathrooms and traffic zones to be conducive to the new layout. The re-routing of services was tricky to say the least due to the positioning of the basement. Extensive co-ordination was required by all parties.” The-Collaroy-2


It’s amazing what a ‘window’ can do for a venue’s viability. But, of course, there’s more to the renovation than the glazing; much more. Apart from the heritage-listed street-facing facade, everything is brand new; from the glycol system to the loudspeakers, it’s all brand-spanking. The interior designer Harriet Waugh of the HGW Design Group has combined the best of the Hamptons and British Colonial (think: Raffles) to create a look that’s supremely relaxed and a natural fit for a venue where there’s literally nothing between you and the beach. The main bar on street level is a stylishly low key coastal-themed space, complete with grey ironbark timber and brushed brass finishings and large diner-style leather booths. Head upstairs and there’s a hint of greater sophistication without any unnecessary airs and graces. Beaded light fixtures hang comfortably alongside the island fans, with plenty of seating option including lounges, stools and tub chairs. The Collaroy epitomises Australian culture: the surf, the sand… all with a drink in hand. A number of up-and-coming (as well as established) Australian designers have been enlisted to add their touches. Marz Design created the geometric beaded light fixtures above the stairs and many of the pot plants in the venue are from Pop and Scott, a workshop cooperative in Melbourne. Harriet also worked with Narani Henson, a young Australian female artist whose work is composed of random marine plastics found washed ashore.


The venue’s audiovisual setup is built for flexibility. There are dozens of Vue Audiotechnik six- and eight-inch speakers, and EAW in-ceiling speakers dotted around the venue. There are eight main zones across The Collaroy on the two levels. But within that there are ‘sub zones’. For example, the main bar upstairs might be one zone, but the bar manager can fine tune the audio such that the loos can enjoy a different level to the cocktail lounge within the main bar area. Traditionally, that degree of granular zone control came at a price. The tweakier you’d like to get, the price and sophistication of the equipment would rise exponentially. A multi-channel digital protocol called Dante has changed all that.

Dave Coxon of DJW Projects, the AV installer, loves Dante, and loves what it can do for a venue like The Collaroy. “It provides all the routing options a venue like this could need.  We’ve got three Nightlife zones, multiple DJ points, Foxtel, free to air… any source can be easily routed to any zone, and what’s more we can easily fine tune the levels to ensure zones within zones enjoy just the right amount of sound. And because we have 60-plus speakers strategically dotted around the venue, no one speaker is any louder than it needs to be — you’re not firing big ugly 12+horn speakers down the length of the room.”

Taking care of the processing are Dante-enabled Symetrix devices feeding audio to Dante-enabled Yamaha amplifiers.

A function space has a larger rig. An EAW MK series eight+horn PA with EAW SB120 will get any party started. That system is powered by Powersoft M series amps.

From a big-picture prespective, the operator’s AV/Nightlife video interface is an iPad, providing simple access to the AMX control system. Otherwise, simple to use, wall-mounted Symetrix Arc-2e remotes allow the bar manager turn the sound up/down in their area and select a source.

The TAB area is a tech triumph. One button triggers the AMX control system to set all the TAB channels and teletext. No faffing. Also the venue has utilised the new service offered by Flexicast for the TAB sheets, eliminating the need for staff to manually print and put up the racing guides every day.

The Collaroy has no shortage of other screens. There’s a shedload of Samsung LCD all able to display Foxtel and free to air. Dave Coxon describes the setup as going ‘back to the future’: “It works like the MATV systems of old, only nowadays the RF is digitally modulated with proper 1080i encoders — any screen in the venue can be tuned to any channel and it’s not bothered by EDID or HDCP issues you can get when splitting HDMI or DVI signals. Its success is dependent on the encoder. We’ve found one by Pro Video Instruments that works well.”

DJW Projects: (02) 9114 9993 or PAVT (EAW, Symetrix, Powersoft): (03) 9264 8000 or Amber Technology (Vue): 1800 251 367 or Samsung: 1300 362603 or iSupplies (Pro Video Instruments): (03) 9803 8770 or


The layout maintains enough options to ensure that functions are easily catered for, as are a variety of eating alternatives — a beach burger bar, a la carte restaurant, and casual dining bistro. The strongly seafood influenced menu, masterminded by chef Ben Varela, includes signature dishes of Pan Fried Snapper with Lemon Butter, Seared Sesame Tuna, as well as quality steaks all matched with the best locally sourced seasonal produce – with a focus on organic. What’s more the adjacent cafe, the Pelican Pavilion, now falls under The Collaroy auspices, meaning locals can check into the venue at 6.30am for a heart starter on a Monday morning, burn the midnight oil into the wee small hours of a Saturday night… and everything in between.


Music was a critical part of getting the market positioning right for The Collaroy. The venue struck up a conversation with expert music video curators, Nightlife from an early stage. GM Alistair Flower elaborates: “We worked with the guys at Nightlife to make sure the music experience from the moment people walk through the door is something locals could relate to, but also a signal they were somewhere pretty special. Nightlife’s new app — which I had a hand in testing throughout its development — means I can change the music in an instant from anywhere in the venue. This is perfect when the crowd changes or for special events.”

Nightlife Music: 1800 773 468 or


Like the menu, The Collaroy doesn’t need or want to look too far from its own patch to get all it needs. Alistair Flower again: “If you live in the area, you’re my target market. We’re all about community. The staff is local. We’re involved in the surf club and other community groups. We now have our own surf boat crew. We’re a community and lifestyle hotel that’s a centrepiece of the local area.


HGW Design Group:  0450 964 670 Arcon: (02) 8305 4100 or Marz Designs: Contempo Furniture (Custom Furniture & Lighting): (02) 9820 6111 or

A beachside gem with a community outlook and an all-day appeal.

The Collaroy:

(02) 9981 7333 or
Story: Christopher Holder The Collaroy is shipwreck. Well, at least originally it was. A steamer called the Collaroy went down off the coast in 1881, which accounts for the suburb’s name. The Collaroy Hotel is now a fresh new venue that’s going full steam ahead, serving the Northern Beaches community from dawn to dusk and beyond. (more…)