Determination brings back Anchors Wharf after fire

Bellingen Shire Mayor Steve Allan, Anchors Wharf proprietor Steve Ryan, Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey and Anchors Wharf proprietor Denise Ryan.

ANCHORS Wharf Urunga, the iconic and community-beloved local waterside restaurant, opens to the public on Wednesday 5 October after seventeen months of recovery and refurbishment after a devastating fire on Monday 3 May, 2021.

After watching 25 years of his family’s life being dumped into skip bins in the big clean-up, proprietor Steve Ryan told News Of The Area, “The turning point was a determination to bring back Anchors Wharf restaurant bigger and better than ever.

“It’s a huge credit to the local firies from Urunga, Bellingen, Nambucca and Coffs Harbour; they saved the building.”

While it took a lot longer than expected dealing with insurance companies and bureaucracy, Steve said the process taught him patience and “not to stress too much”.

The timing gave Steve and his wife Denise the opportunity to reinvent the business and design a beautiful interior.

“We had a lot of help along the way,” Steve acknowledged, “all local.”

Winning the job, builders Reconstruct in Toormina, used all local subcontractors.

“Their heart was in it,” said Steve, “they could see the place was going to be stunning when they had finished.

“They all had a sense of pride which grew as the end result got closer.”

The whole rebuilding, design and twelve-months of staff wages for eleven people will give Steve and Denise “no change out of $2.3 million,” said Steve.

Creative interior designer Lisa Daniel, from The Design Cupboard in Coffs Harbour, was engaged to create ‘the look’.

Lisa told NOTA, ”Anchors Wharf, an iconic site of the region, deserved to be celebrated.

“I felt the need to design according to what the name evoked, a space full of character and history, rustic, aged, yet also contemporary with an industrial edge.

“An old map of the local waterways was used to embellish the large-scale coffered ceiling.

“Recycled timber slabs were utilized throughout the build, and an undercurrent of shifting green colour tones drawing in the river, a once old, now new place inviting locals back and welcoming new people to the area,” she said.

“There’s a lot of old recycled wood, boating memorabilia and we have a map of 1960s Urunga on the ceiling as you walk in; it all gives an idea of the history of the area,” said Steve.

Not new to business-closing events, Anchors Wharf had a major flood in 2009.

“But we only closed for ten days with the ’09 flood.

“The fire was catastrophic.

“Anchors Wharf is part of the area and we have had so much support from the community.

“We’ve posted updates of the work in progress on Facebook and every time we’ve had thousands of views and hundreds of comments each time, saying positive things and people wanting to see us back up and running.”

The Ryans have had the business for a quarter of a century and their family has grown up around it.

“It’s part of the family; our kids have learned to work in the hospitality business here, it’s a treasured part of the community where people celebrate their special occasions.

“Life’s got to go on and we weren’t going to let it be demolished and made into a park,” said Steve.

“We’re envisioning a very busy time from opening on 5 October.

“For the first three weeks we’re doing limited numbers just to ease ourselves into and make sure we’ve got everything right and running smoothly.”

Right and running smoothly, the thank you celebration at Anchors Wharf on Friday 23 September went super well with 120 people attending a personal invitation from Steve and Denise to be amongst the first to see everything in full swing.

“We invited the firies, tradies, anyone who worked on the refurbishment, the police, Bellingen councillors, staff, with Mayor Steve Allan and Melinda Pavey officially opening Anchors Wharf for business, once again.”


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