The West

Crown Perth s $1.2b revamp
Chris Hopkins at work at Crown

Chris Hopkins has come a long way since his days growing up in Perth and pouring beers at Mt Hawthorn's Paddington Ale House.

In the past dozen years he has been honing his skills as a cocktail barman, or mixologist, in London, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Now he's bringing that knowledge back home as cocktail consultant to the $9 million gastro pub The Merrywell, the newest element of the $1.2 billion revamp of Crown Perth.

The pub is part of a new layout at Burswood and has been built on the island opposite the entrance to the complex.

Its opening party on Sunday will follow Saturday's launch of the $7 million Bistro Guillaume, which started trading this week.

Mr Hopkins, 35, has been in Perth for an intensive fortnight of planning and training.

"I used to come to Burswood a lot when I lived in Perth and I'm glad to be part of the expansion," he said.

Like Mr Hopkins, the resort has come a long way.

Brian Burke's Labor government started the ball rolling when it granted Dallas Dempster and his Malaysian-based partner Genting Berhad an exclusive licence to build a casino at Burswood Island, a one-time landfill site.

The casino opened in December 1985 and its popularity from the outset was evidenced by long queues outside the doors.

Other developments in the entertainment complex followed and the first resort hotel opened in October 1987. According to one report, management allowed one high roller to stay the night before it opened officially.

He won $1.4 million at the casino, a record win at the time by an individual at an Australian casino.

When Kerry Packer launched his takeover bid for the Burswood resort in 2004, all the right noises were made about improving the complex and attracting more visitors to the State.

Since the takeover, the Packer gaming interests have been divested into Crown Ltd. Under executive chairman James Packer, Burswood has been rebranded Crown.

By the time the master plan is complete, the one-time slightly daggy gambling venue of the 1980s will be able to match the world's best.

Fine dining options that have put Perth on the culinary map include the $12 million Rockpool Bar & Grill, Bistro Guillaume and the $9 million Nobu.

The Cotta cafe, the Groove Bar & Lounge and the Fusion bar, which opened yesterday, are new additions, as is the expanded gaming floor.

The last piece in the jigsaw will be Crown Towers, Perth's biggest hotel with 500 rooms and costing about $568 million when it opens in 2016.

To keep all these businesses ticking over, Crown Perth has become the biggest single-site private employer in the city, with its payroll growing from 2400 eight years ago to more than 5200 today.

Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall said Crown Perth and the airport were the two most important pieces of tourism infrastructure in WA.

Crown Perth was crucial in training hospitality staff and attracting Chinese tourists.

The West Australian

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