“He was the ultimate publican; he was the go-to man if you wanted to learn anything in the industry; just the best bloke.”
The hospitality industry and the Ballarat community in general are paying tribute to Ian Larkin, who died on Wednesday after a long illness.
Mr Larkin, 65, was an integral part of the hotel and hospitality industry not only in Ballarat but all of country Victoria, said current Australian Hoteliers Association (AHA) country vice-president and Red Lion Hotel publican Dave Canny.
Mr Canny succeeded Ian Larkin in the AHA role, and says he was respected and loved for the jovial manner in which he conducted business.
“Over 20 years ago, when I first got involved in the industry here, he was head of the AHA in Ballarat and a (AHA) councillor in Melbourne,” said Mr Canny.
“He always made a point, when a new hotelier came into the region, to drop in and welcome them and see if they needed a hand – to say, ‘welcome to the family’.”
He was a winner of the AHA Nikakis Award for the AHA in 2004, “recognising an individual or organisation who by their sustained performance and commitment serve as an inspiration to all in the industry.”
It’s the Brownlow of hotelier’s awards, says Dave Canny.
Born into the hotel business – his parents Les and Ethel had pubs in Donald and Corindhap – Ian Larkin had hotels and food venues in Ballarat and Torquay, starting as the manager of the Blue Bell Hotel in 1975.
Brother-in-law Michael Kearney said over time Mr Larkin had the Red Lion and Crossing hotels, The Sporting Tavern, Larkin’s Bar and Grill, the Lake View Hotel, managed the bar of the Grand Hotel, and finished with Irish Murphy’s in Sturt Street, as well as other businesses in Torquay.
A life member of the Melbourne Cricket Club and Beer and Beef Ballarat (he was also a long-serving president), he had a lifelong involvement in horse-racing with gallopers and trotters, and was a major sponsor of the Winfield Country Football Championships.
Dave Canny says Ian Larkin was a mentor to publicans all around the state, making sure the voice of the country pub owner was heard in the Melbourne offices of the AHA in his role as country vice-president and national board member.
“A lot of the younger ones coming through now would say he was the one they got their passion from,” he says.
“He enjoyed everyone’s success; it was never about him. It was never ‘me’; it was always ‘us’.”
Mr Larkin was central to the establishment of the Ballarat Liquor Accord, mediating between council, police and the city’s hoteliers. He knew what was needed to make it work, said Mr Canny.
“He sat us down and told us it needed to work; he made us toe the line,” he says.
“We’re just going to miss him so much.”
Ian Larkin is survived by his beloved wife Trish and sons Guy and Nicholas.