Local business owners are beaming, after finishing off a tough year with festivities at the 2021 Hunter Business Awards.

More than 70 finalists attended the celebrations at the Civic Theatre on Wednesday night, where guests enjoyed a surprise encore of Priscilla staged by the Metropolitan Players, before a ceremony announcing the award-winners. 

Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes says the attendees “made a real night of it”.

“Everyone was really pleased to be out at a face-to-face event again,” Mr Hawes said.

“Lots of comments about, good to see people live and not over Zoom, in 3D instead of 2D.”

16 businesses took awards, with Stephen Hunt of Hunt Hospitality winning Business Leader of the Year, the Port of Newcastle winning for their Contribution for the Region, and Youth Express grabbing the Excellence in Community Enterprise category.

Mr Hawes says it’s reassuring for the region’s post-COVID recovery.

“Stephen Hunt winning the Business Leader of the Year award, it’s a testament to a business that’s in an industry that’s been absolutely hammered through the pandemic,” Mr Hawes said.

“Despite the pandemic, a lot of the business performance that we saw flew in the face of that, and to see the actual ways that people had improved their businesses, not by just getting a gratuitous increase in revenues, but by battening down the hatches, figuring out different ways of doing things, working with their staff to come up with new and innovative ideas.”