Victoria’s Hospitality Stars Shine at the 2024 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence

[Melbourne, Victoria] The pinnacle event of the Victorian hospitality industry unfolded on Monday, May 20 at Crown Palladium, with a diverse array of venues and influential figures in the sector being honoured in 40 distinct categories during the sold-out gala dinner and awards ceremony.

A crowd of 1200 attendees gathered at Crown Palladium for the highly anticipated 2024 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence, where the industry’s strength and successes were honoured, bringing an electric energy to the room.

“At the 2024 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence we celebrated the hospitality delivered through Victoria’s remarkable pubs and hotels. The Awards recognised the significant commitment and dedication of our publicans, hoteliers and their staff.” – Paddy O’Sullivan, CEO of AHA (Vic).


Our marquee event partner, Tabcorp, was once again a key contributor to the success of the evening. “A few years back we were dealing with the pandemic, and more recently we see pubs working through economic challenges like inflation and cost of living. Despite these challenges that you all face, you still show up for your customers day in and day out, and for that unwavering dedication you should be recognised,” said Paul Carew, CEO of Tabcorp.

The ‘Nikakis Benchmark Award,’ named after the late Nick Nikakis, is the most prestigious award of the night which recognises an individual or organisation who by their sustained performance and commitment, serve as an inspiration to all in the industry.

Pat Sheehan and Marilyn Bell win the 2024 Nikakis Benchmark Award

The 2024 Nikakis Benchmark Award was presented to Pat Sheehan and Marilyn Bell from the Rising Sun Hotel Bendigo. Pat and Marylin have exemplified outstanding dedication and service to their community and the hospitality industry, demonstrating the true spirit of the Nikakis Award. Their longstanding involvement in local organisations and support for the AHA have made them pillars of the Bendigo community and champions of regional pubs and hotels.

The highly anticipated ‘Overall Hotel of the Year- Metropolitan’ was presented by Carlton & United Breweries. The 11 contenders for 2024 included names like The Botanical Hotel (South Yarra), The Continental Sorrento, The Fifth Province (St Kilda), and taking away the title was The Notting Hill Hotel, fondly known as “The Nott” by its patrons. This category also consisted of a regional counterpart, where The Middle Hotel Korumburra was declared winner among 13 finalists.

Notting Hill Hotel win Overall Hotel of The Year- Metropolitan
The Middle Hotel Korumburra win Overall Hotel of The Year- Regional

The prestigious ‘Chef of The Year’ award was taken away by Rory Brown for presenting incredible flavours packed in a modern style pub menu at the Five Flags Hotel in Campbells Creek. Rory says country pubs are in his blood (his grandparents owned a pub in Kyabram and his mum was a pub cook) and he loves being part of the fabric of Campbells Creek, where he spends spare time hunting and fishing.


The newly added ‘Venue Manager of The Year’ category saw Matthew Connell from The Wharf Shed emerge as the winner on the night. Matt was described as a “triple threat” by our judges, describing him as an accomplished chef, past owner and operator of his own venues and a proud Geelong boy with a huge passion for his home town! Matt is on a mission to show as many young people as possible that hospitality is a fun and lucrative career choice, and he’s leading by example.


The ‘Local Legend’ award acknowledges outstanding community service and achievement within the hospitality industry by certain individuals. This year, Stewart McKinnon from Barwon Heads Hotel was honoured with the title of Local Legend of the Year. A barman by trade, Stewie is a true larrikin who puts the community first every time. He runs a social club at the pub, bringing people together for meal, and drives elderly locals to appointments around town and as far as Melbourne. But Stewie’s greatest achievement is the Friday Night Raffle, which has raised thousands of dollars for charities and needy locals in the last couple of years.


Our ‘Best Cocktail List of The Year’ category made its debut at this year’s awards night, and Paradise Valley Hotel in Clematis triumphed among notable contenders. The win celebrates their innovative creations like the ‘Ultra Violet’ and ‘Caramilk Punch’ cocktails, along with serving up delicious classics like the Limoncello Spritz and Spicy Margaritas, making Paradise Valley Hotel a must-visit for cocktail enthusiasts everywhere!

The Star Hotel Sale win "People's Choice Award" for the second time in a row

Over 146 pubs contested for the coveted ‘People’s Choice Award’ presented by Treasury Premium Brands and voted by the general public, was The Star Hotel Sale, emerging once again as the fan-favourite among their community. The venue had previously won the title at the 2023 State Awards for Excellence, maintaining its crown as the ‘Local’s Local.’

The iconic ‘Parma of The Year’ was tightly contested by 16 finalists with The Middle Hotel in Korumburra finding the way to hearts of our judges as the champion, scoring a perfect score of 100% on the books.

The highly regarded ‘Best Hotel Group Operator’ award at the event acknowledges the most prominent players in the hotel industry, and this year, Kickon Group were announced as the winners in recognition of their exceptional performance in managing a range of highly regarded venues throughout Melbourne, including The Terminus Hotel (Fitzroy), The Continental (Sorrento), and the new-age Latin American dining bar Pincho Disco in Collingwood.

Click here for the full list of 2024 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence winners and finalists.

Click here for the full suite of winners’ images.

Click here for all social images on the night.