Toompine Pub.
Toompine Pub.

‘Accidental publicans’ take over Toompine

THREE weeks ago, Kate and Stu Bowden had no intention of ever owning a pub, but now the ‘accidental publicans’ are the new owners of the South Western Hotel, locally known as the Toompine pub.

It was on a Friday evening in early December when Stu told wife Kate, “don’t even think twice about our offer … it won’t be accepted.”

The following Monday, just before the busy Christmas period, the earthmoving business owner and his wife got the call – they were there the hotel’s new publicans.

“It all happened very quickly, but we love it,” Mrs Bowden said.

Family and friends, some even travelling from Western Australia, offered a helping a hand to make it a smooth transition from the previous owners.

The acquisition of the pub is a full circle moment for Kate – her great grandparents are from Toompine and her Great Aunt even owned the pub previously.

New Year’s Day is the official date they become owners of their local.

Despite country pubs considered to be one of the few industries that are droughtproof, the long dry has had an impact on all businesses, including hotels.

It’s what spurred the couple to buy the pub, to ensure it survived for the locals.

“We are not here to make a million dollars, but here to support the community” Mrs Bowden said.

They did not want the pub going into foreign investment or worse, to shut down.

“Especially due to the drought, if the pub closed, it would have a big impact on the community considering how isolated Toompine is …” Mrs Bowden said.

“It means a lot to us that the pub doesn’t go into foreign hands, but we do our best to keep it local”.

Much to the couple’s delight, the festive season has brought plenty of locals, young people, and tourists to the pub.

Although the couple does not use social media, they were “in shock for the first week” when they heard about all the praise and well wishes online from locals in neighbouring towns.

The pair hope the pub can be a gathering point for mothers and their children to come have coffee, cake and a chat during the day and not just a place for drinking.

Visitors can camp at the pub at a cost of $10 per night with the money going to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Charleville Western Times

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