Port Lincoln Hotel team creates community refuge

28 November, 2019 by Vanessa Cavasinni

During a fortnight of extreme weather conditions, the staff at the Port Lincoln Hotel showed the local community that it was a place of refuge and support. As told to Australian Hotelier by Hurley Hotels Group manager Sam McInnes, and owner Jenny Hurley.

Earlier this month, on Monday 11 November, the Port Lincoln community in South Australia was beset with a larger fire at nearby Duck Ponds, where more than 100 firefighters and eight water bombers fought to control the blaze, just after 4pm. As the fire threatened the town, SA Power Networks disconnected the energy supply to 10,500 Port Lincoln properties.

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Port Lincoln staff members were among the residents who had their properties at risk, as executive chef Kaushik Aiyer, accommodation manager Katherine Arthur and duty manager Aaron Jones were forced to evacuate their houses on the edge of town. Chef Sam Moulden chose to stay and defend her property and horses, and unfortunately had some damage to her property, and her horses sustained injuries.

The front of the Port Lincoln Hotel became a point of refuge that night, as more than 30 locals and their pets gathered there for safety. The blaze was contained in the evening.

Unfortunately the return to normalcy lasted little more than a week, as on Wednesday 20 November, the town was hit by 70km/h winds. In a pre-emptive move, SA Power Networks once more turned off the power to the town. As the hotel generators sprang to life, the Port Lincoln Hotel became the “lifeboat” of local residents, as the only hotel open in a town of 13,000.

The hotel became inundated with patrons, and the staff jumped to action. Between 12-8pm the hotel served 600 meals. Everyone in the team chipped in to help, including office, security, and unrostered staff who worked as glassies, cleaners and runners to keep operations running smoothly.

“What an outstanding display of teamwork, to which I can honestly say I am not surprised. But, it’s still amazing to hear the story of these days, and the leadership and teamwork that made it happen,” states McInnes.

“Full credit to manager Brooke Collier and assistant Brad Gunn and the team at the Port Lincoln Hotel.”

While all efforts on the day were applauded, there were a few that stood out to the management team. Executive chef Aiyer took a conference dinner for 80 people at short notice, cancelled from another venue which had no power. Hannah Pullen, seven months pregnant, ran the food pass all day, and eventually had to be told to stop working. The bottleshop team, after working with no fridges and EFTPOS on battery, continued to help the hotel team after the shop closed.

“Every team member at the Hotel is passionate about what they do and in particular when the community is challenged. We all rally together, step up a gear and have each other’s backs,” stated manager Brooke Collier.

“I am very proud of the team we have built and the respect each and every team member has towards the hotel and each other.”