The last time the Strawberry Hills Hotel, established in 1870, had a makeover was in 1921 when Sidney Warden transformed her into one hell of a hip watering hole decked out in the latest Art Deco style and catering to jazz aficionados.
Ninety years down the track and the Strawberry Hills Hotel has emerged from an 18-month restoration costing six million dollars.
One of Sydney’s largest inner city pubs, the Strawberry Hills Hotel now boasts glamour and style whilst still retaining Art Deco elements such as leadlight windows, twenties style pub tiles and the State Theatre carpet which leads patrons upstairs to the hotel’s bistro and decked garden.
According to the hotel’s general manager, Brenden Lawless, the refurbished hotel is ‘deliberately a classic pub, not a bar with an identity crisis’.
Publican Margaret Hargreaves has overseen the 18-month restoration. Paul Dunn of Nicholas Dunn + Associates was the original Strawberry Hills project architect in all respects from conception until 9 December 2009. Mr Dunn is the author of the designs which are now largely and substantially reflected in the Hotel as restored and refurbished.
“The project took many painstaking years in design and approvals and represents the hotel owner, Margaret Hargreaves’s, long standing ambition to realise her dream to refurbish and restore the “Strawberry” and to reclaim its place as one of the great classic Sydney pubs,” remarked Glenn Cunnington, Associate Director at Humphrey & Edwards, architects from 2009. “The construction works took approximately eighteen months to complete and included extensive structural works. Projects of this type are extraordinarily complex and the completed project is a testament to the skill and dedication of the design and construction team, lead by Renascent Constructions, and the determination and persistence of client!”
The project intentionally draws on the heritage characteristics of previous incantations of the hotel with more than a gentle nod towards its Victorian heritage and later Art Deco overlays.
The principal design objective was to recreate a “classic” pub whilst integrating all of the bells and whistles that are expected of a contemporary hotel.
The exterior is a conventional and faithful refurbishment of the heritage façade of the hotel and revives its past glory creating a bold landmark on the prominent Elizabeth and Devonshire Street corner.
By contrast, the interior provides a variety of new spaces built on, and arranged around, the bones of the past.
The entry level on the ground floor provides a new public bar that addresses the street corner. The public bar is unashamedly “old school” and includes oiled ironbark timber floors, a wide linoleum topped timber bar, coffered ceilings and is fully tiled with handmade glazed tiles to compliment the exterior tiled finish. An expansive TAB flanks the public bar. Its design and finish is unlike a typical TAB as it has been especially designed to integrate with the “heritage” inspired appearance of the Public Bar.
The new Gaming area is located behind the Public Bar with direct entry off Elizabeth Street. The design channels the over-the-top glitz of “Las Vegas” in the 70s. The original 70s fibre optic Las Vegas Streetscape panorama has been refurbished and features as the back drop to the internal gaming area. The space is finished in wall to wall gold mosaic tiles, sumptuous carpets, Makassar Ebony bar, smoke mirror and timber and brass trims. However the money shot has to be the crystal chandelier ceiling comprised of 3,500 illuminated suspended crystals each individually hand selected by the Hotel Manager, Brenden Lawless. The gaming area is fully serviced and includes an external gaming area and direct access to an outdoor terrace fronting Elizabeth Street.
The upper level presents a more contemporary, but similarly warm and inviting, experience. On arrival at the upper level a large outdoor courtyard terrace comes as a welcome surprise. The new bar / dining areas are arranged around the courtyard space and the new internal dining areas share the light and aspect it provides. The courtyard is built on a grey ironbark deck which is nestled behind the existing external rustic brick walls in the south eastern corner of the hotel. As Sydneysiders’ love outdoor spaces this courtyard is proving to be very popular. The finishes are predominantly warm timbers with the rustic nature of the original brickwork left exposed around the courtyard.
In the courtyard space an innovative and intriguing evaporative cooling system assists to keep the environment comfortable on really hot days.
The original timber staircase has been faithfully restored and a new lift has been installed to provide an accessible link between all levels. The original timber stair is paired with another complimentary timber stair in the rear corner. A large void has been cut from the floor behind the street corner and provides a visual connection between the Public Bar and the upper dining and terrace areas whilst allowing more natural light back into the Public Bar area.
In addition the hotel has been completely refitted with new back of house services, toilets and plant.
Brenden and the Strawberry Hills team are delighted with their new system, as the takings from the jukebox have already exceeded expectations. More importantly, the juke is connected to the venue’s customised music system, and can only play songs from their chosen lists. This means that the ambience they are trying to achieve with their music is always maintained. Nightlife provide tailored music and advertising solutions for venues and this is a great example of the level of detail they are known for.
Any audio visual within the Strawberry Hills Hotel was designed, supplied and installed by the Constant Group Pty Ltd. For audio a range of JBL speakers and Crown amplifiers were chosen including surface mount JBL Control 25’s along with JBL SB-210 and JBL ASB-6115 subs, which have been discreetly integrated into the walls and cabinetry making it as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Twenty-two JBL-8124 in-ceiling speakers provide background music in the toilets and hallways, along with the TAB area.
BSS London signal processing has been installed including Blu-10 and Blu-8 wall controllers that give staff control of the audio system from behind each bar. From there they can conveniently choose input sources, zones, adjust volume etc. The wall controllers are programmed to meet council requirements with regards to noise restrictions and are also programmed with a maximum db in order to eliminate the possibility of staff turning the system up too loud thus causing damage to speakers.
The Hotel has been divided into seven audio zones: Public Bar, Gaming Indoor, Gaming Outdoor, TAB, Dining Area, Courtyard, Toilets. Each zone is capable of having its own audio source and volume level regardless of the setting in other zones. Each bar also has I-pod integration and it’s just a matter of plug and play making it user friendly for all staff.
All speakers are powered from Crown amplifiers and all processing is done by a BSS BLU-160 Digital Signal Processor. All hardware has been installed in a lockable rack cabinet located within in a purpose-built and fully air-conditioned communications room along side another two rack cabinets with the rest of the electronics hardware installed by Constant Group Pty Ltd.
A Soundcraft mixer has been installed into cabinetry on a custom slide-away draw for storage when not in use. When required for a live performance, the cabinet is simply unlocked and the mixer slides out into position allowing the sound engineer to pull up a seat and get to work.
In order to maximize floor space JBL portable EON speakers and subs were chosen, which are stored back of house when not in use. By making everything portable or slide away, the dining area looks like a dining area most of the time and a live performance area when required.
Although everything is portable, all required cabling, such as the multi-core cabling, data etc for the live performance system was installed during construction stage reducing the amount of cabling usually seen. A Jands stage box was integrated into the wall and concealed with a hatch matching the wall with the other end connecting directly to the concealed Soundcraft mixer. Shure microphones compliment the live audio set up.
The DJ system is in a portable road case ready to move in and out as required, again providing maximum floor space when not in use rather than using up precious floor space as it’s such a busy hotel. The system comprises of Stanton CD deck and mixer.
The visual system was designed so every screen in the hotel can play every channel and input available, such as all digital FTA channels, Sky, Foxtel, DVD player, and Nightlife. Due to the design and installation of the backbone cabling installed, the visual system also has the capacity to play the Jackpot Links in the gaming rooms to any TV in the hotel. Screens include LG plasmas and Hisense LCD TVs.
An NEC projector was installed in the courtyard area, concealed within the bulkhead behind a Perspex panel un-noticeable amongst the timber slates. It projects to a retractable screen approx 10metres away on the rear courtyard wall. For aesthetical reasons it was decided to conceal this and operate it with a remote, obviously a must do was to install a service hatch next to projector.
The CCTV has a total of 32 Bosch Day/Night vandal resistant dome cameras strategically placed throughout the hotel in order to cover as much area as possible. They are recorder back to two Pacom PDRH-16-RT real-time, high resolution digital video recorders with 2 terabytes hard drive storage in each DVR giving a total of 4TB of hard drive storage. These digital recorders provide real time recording @ CIF and have 4CIF recording capabilities, offering high performance features ideal for advance digital surveillance applications
The cameras are powered from a Tactical heavy duty, rack mounted, 20amp, 40 x fused output, power supply. This permits each camera to be connected to an individual fuse, providing optimum protection against vandalism. Should a single camera power cable be shorted or deliberately cut, the power supply will be protected as the fuse will automatically blow. This ensures that the remaining cameras connected to this power supply will still be operational.
Constant Group’s system design also includes a Commander 2000VA Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). This UPS performs two functions; to protect the DVR, power supply and cameras from power surges and the secondly, to maintain recording for a limited time in the event of a power failure.
The entire system was installed into a completely secured lockable rack cabinet next to the audio rack and gaming rack. The system design meets and excesses all OLGR licensing requirements and is high quality and a cost effective solution.
All IT infra-structure is backed up by a HP ML150 G6 E5502 Server with back up smart array controllers and internal back up tape drive. The network comes together with Netgear network switches and Netgear firewalls all rack mounted in the comms room. Network consist of HP PC’s and HP multifunction laserjet printers in each office.
Each level of the hotel is covered with a Netcomm WI-FI access point for public use along with Netcomm secure printers located at each bar. Although the Hotel wanted to give hotel patrons access to the internet at no charge, it was necessary to control this usage so it was not abused. Secure thermal printers have been installed at each bar which, at the press of a button, produces a ticket with a 2hr time limit (selectable time limit to what is required) and a unique username and password. This not only restricts the usage inside the hotel but also eliminated the possibility of neighboring property’s accessing free internet!
The hotel is complemented with a cost effective LG Aria PABX system with handsets throughout every office and at each bar and apart from the obvious external communication, it also allows internal communication between bars and offices for all staff and management.