Illawarra Hotel publican Ryan Aitchison and his wife Nikki Aitchison are determined to support businesses in our region by championing local products and produce and encouraging other hotels, bars and eateries to do the same.
It started when the venue reopened in June and replaced an international brand of vodka with Seacliff Vodka, which is made by Wollongong's Headlands Distilling Co.
He placed it front of bar as the venue's go-to spirit and saw sales increase.
The Illawarra has since introduced Headland's signature gin, produced with help and inspiration from the local Indigenous community.
Next, the pub will serve up South Coast Distillery's Sublime gin, as well as locally produced beers from Stoic Brewing, Gerringong, Eden Brewery, Mittagong and Five Barrel Brewing, Wollongong.
It will expand its local food option next Tuesday by unveiling The Highlands Pie, boasting ingredients Mr Aitchison has tried himself from producers in the Southern Highlands.
People are physically coming into our business because they know they can get a great locally produced, world-class vodka and they are not paying through the nose for it.
He said the response to all the recent changes by patrons has been encouraging.
"People care about that these days," Mr Aitchison said.
"We are so lucky to be an independent pub that is not tied to big contracts, so we can go out and seek great local producers who are making cracker spirits, beers, food and wines."
Mr Aitchison said he is looking forward to the day when local producers say they need to put on more staff because of the growing demand.
Which is why he is urging other businesses to follow The Illawarra's lead to help make more jobs a reality.
"When you think about what we have within a short drive in this region, there is absolutely no excuse for us not to utilise it because it is top stuff," he said.
"By stocking local it means we are serving better produce.
"Even the food we are selling that is made with local produce, people are commenting about it and saying they can actually taste the difference.
"People are physically coming into our business because they know they can get a great locally produced, world-class vodka and they are not paying through the nose for it."
Mr Aitchison said businesses working together helped ensure money made in this region stays in this region.
The couple is educating their staff about the local spirits and beers so they can share that information with patrons who are also being encouraged to visit the breweries and distilleries themselves.
They are also talking to local wineries about adding their products to wine list.
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