A hospitality group with a portfolio of waterside venues will open a restaurant in the revamped North Wollongong surf club, with an acclaimed chef and Illawarra resident heading up the new venture.
The Boathouse Group will open its newest eatery on the top floor of the building overlooking North Wollongong Beach later this year.
The company already runs 12 venues in the Central Coast and Sydney, and Wollongong marks its first foray into the Illawarra and South Coast.
Ben Collis, the Boathouse Group's head of commercial and marketing, said the site "ticked a lot of boxes".
"As soon as we saw the venue and the beautiful site and the view, we wanted to put our hat in the ring to be an operator," Mr Collis said.
North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club president David Meredith said the club "couldn't be happier" with the restaurant's incoming operator.
Mr Meredith said they had been through an "extensive, convoluted process" to reach this point but felt they had come up with the best outcome for not only the club but members of the wider community too, who could now enjoy a quality restaurant on the beach.
Having won the tender in 2023, the Boathouse Group's next big task was finding someone to run the venue and develop the menu.
In stepped Mark LaBrooy: chef, co-founder of restaurant group Three Blue Ducks, and northern Illawarra local.
Mr Collis described Mr LaBrooy as an "ideal candidate", being a resident and someone who was passionate about the area.
The group is in the early stages of developing the venue and will soon look to recruiting staff, with 80 to 100 people expected to be employed in permanent and casual positions.
Mr Collis said the restaurant offered the chance to work under "great talent" like Mr LaBrooy, an especially exciting opportunity for emerging chefs.
The appointment of the Boathouse Group came after negotiations with another operator fell through last year, but Mr Meredith said the group was the best fit to emerge following a competitive expressions of interest process.
He said the restaurant would ensure the club's ongoing survival with the income from leasing the space to be poured into educational programs, the promotion of lifesaving, surf sports, and where possible, assisting other clubs in the Illawarra.
Mr Meredith said the first floor of the clubhouse had been underutilised before, but now would be used seven days a week.
Mr Meredith thanked Wollongong City Council for "providing such a great facility" and hoped it would attract more patrolling members to the club.
The refurbished clubhouse was handed back to North Wollongong SLSC in spring 2022 and the first stage of the seawall renewal project was completed in December 2023 after a construction period plagued by weather and COVID-related delays.