Tony Jones, or TJ as many locals know him as, used to own the Plantation Hotel with his family in the mid ’90s and is now back there doing his thing as the General Manager. Tony has also spent time as a fitness coach and loves to get out and train, fitting in as much adventure sport as he can along the way!
Hi Tony. Can you tell us about your connection with the Coffs Coast?
My connection with the Coffs Coast started in 1994, when in partnership with my family we bought the Plantation Hotel. I spent six years here in my first stint, before moving away to the Gold Coast. We moved back in 2007, and have been here ever since.
You owned the Plantation Hotel from 1994 – 1998, and you are now back there as the General Manager. How is it being back?
Yes, that’s right. I owned the Planto back then, and it’s been a massive round trip to be back here again. Some things have changed obviously, but if I can bring that old style pub feeling again with a little flair, we will be on the right track.
What has changed about the hospitality industry on the Coffs Coast from then to now?
Gee, a lot has changed in the industry over the years – not all of them for the better. The core part of our industry will always be the same, but it is harder to make your business profitable now with all of the new laws and how much it costs to implement them. That’s just part of the industry now, and we do our best to still keep costs down and try to make it affordable for our patrons.
What are a few things you have in store moving forward?
We have just finished finalising our new menu, and the few changes we have already introduced are working really well. The live entertainment on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, in conjunction with all our new craft beers and cocktails, are killing it.
We have found out you are somewhat of an adrenaline junkie and have recently taken a trip to New Zealand. How was the trip, and what did you get up to?
Ha ha! Yes, a bit of an adrenaline junkie … The trip to NZ was awesome; that place is absolutely spectacular. Between mountain biking and hiking with a few beers thrown in between, the trip was about relaxing and enjoying the things you just can’t do here in Australia. Really hard to explain how small you feel amongst the mountains over there; we trekked upwards for two hours to the foot of a glacier, and you are really only a quarter of the way up – it’s amazing!
What was the feeling like hopping off the helicopter with your bike and looking down at the track?
Unbelievable, and scary as hell! There is no other way of getting down, but you and your bike and 3,000 metres of single track.
How much training or experience did you have with mountain biking before you went?
I try to get out on the mountain bike and hit the tracks around Coffs as often as I can, and also train down at Legion Fit every other day, but the mountains and the tracks here don’t prepare you for the sheer size of the mountains over there.
When you’re dropping 1,500 metres on to a track as wide as your front wheel, it gets a bit scary!
What would be your ideal adrenaline adventure?
You can’t get much better than a little trip over the ditch, with a bit of everything on offer: mountain biking, hiking glaciers, sky-diving, and bungee jumping.
Taking on adventures like this requires you to be quite fit, and we hear you’re quite into your fitness. What role has fitness played not only in your personal life, but your working career as well?
Mate, I love to stay as fit as I can and workout whenever I have a spare minute. I have a few workouts that I do when I’m time poor, but I always try to get in some sort of fitness routine each day.
I’ve been involved in the fitness industry for a number of years, coaching CrossFit and working with a number of local sporting teams as a strength and conditioning coach (I’m sure there are a few guys out there who hate me for all the things I’ve made them do), but I love it, and I love to see results in other people as well.
You’ve taken up a new hobby from a find in the back room of the hotel. What is it?
Well, it sounds kinda silly, but all these years and I had never stood on a skateboard, then I was cleaning out the storeroom at the Planto and there were a few old boards in there … so, I thought I’d take them home for my kids. Well, one thing led to another, and I found myself down at South Wall having a go myself! And yes, I love it! I grab my little mate, Scruff, and we head down there every morning now – I’m still hopeless, but getting better!