THEY DESERVE A DRINK: After some heavy lifting getting the hotel's beer garden furniture into place, Walkers Marina Hotel manager Steve Everingham and owner Harjap Dosanjh have a break.
THEY DESERVE A DRINK: After some heavy lifting getting the hotel's beer garden furniture into place, Walkers Marina Hotel manager Steve Everingham and owner Harjap Dosanjh have a break. Tim Howard

These days it's a family-friendly vibe at Walkers

A LITTLE more than 12 months into the job of owning Walkers Marina Hotel, one of South Grafton's iconic watering holes, owner Harjap Dosanjh is keen to make his mark on the area.

Mr Dosanjh, a businessman from Woolgoolga, came up the highway lured by the expansion and opportunities the infrastructure boom created in the Jacaranda City.

He particularly liked what he saw in South Grafton's Skinner St, where businesses were pressing ahead with cafes and restaurants and boutique shops.

"It's becoming quite a vibrant centre, but I noticed there was a bit of a gap when it came to a family-friendly venue for weekend outings,” he said.

"We're working on creating a space where a family can come and enjoy some entertainment, have a good affordable meal or you can have a sporting group or other organisation's function in a friendly, open space.”

Mr Dosanjh has the perfect adviser in manager Steve Everingham who has worked at Walkers Marina for more than a 12 years.

"The changes have come over that time, slowly,” he said.

"But I would have to say in the past 12 months they have really picked up.

"I know for a fact the changes Harj has put in place are having an effect, because the takings have improved in that time.”

Mr Dosanjh said he planned to double the size of the beer garden and has plans for regular musical entertainment.

"We've got a new chef, Chris Skibba, from Wisconsin in the USA whose specialty is barbecued ribs and wings,” he said.

"He's worked in resorts in North Queensland and more recently has been working in Woolgoolga and has decided to come up to Grafton.

"He's going to be a perfect fit for the type of atmosphere we're looking to create here.”

He said Walkers would also be looking to increase its community presence by sponsoring sporting groups.

"Sponsoring the South Grafton Rebels has worked really well for us,” Mr Everingham said.

"They've really given our profile in the community a boost.

"We're definitely looking to expand in this area of community involvement.”

He said Skinner St has improved out of sight since he first came to work at Walkers all those years ago.

"Ever since the beautification of the area, things have got better and better,” he said.

"The businesses, the council and the police have worked together to make improvements for businesses and shoppers.

"In that time the whole atmosphere of the area has changed so much from what it was.”

Mr Dosanjh said he noticed these sorts of changes when he was looking for investment opportunities.

"This is one of the goals we set ourselves when we bought here,” he said.

"We saw how the area was developing and we wanted to be part of it and help those changes continue to happen.

"But it's not finished yet, there's so much more we can do to improve what we have to offer here and what South Grafton has to attract people.”