Gundaroo pub runs dry in dispute

Colonial Inn at Gundaroo runs dry in dispute

Life & Style
Publican Chris 'Choppy' Connor outside the Gundaroo pub. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Publican Chris 'Choppy' Connor outside the Gundaroo pub. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

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"It's not about the money. It's about the community and it's about the people."

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For the first time in maybe more than a century, the historic pub in Gundaroo has shut its doors to the thirsty.

Even during the great Covid lockdown, the Colonial Inn served takeaways, both liquid and solid.

But now, the doors are shut.

The pub was founded during the gold rush in 1872 as the Commercial Hotel. For a while, it was known as Matt Crowes Wine Bar, named after the then-owners.

It's thought to have been closed during a previous dispute but that was around the turn of the last century. Since then, beer and banter have flowed.

"I love that bloody place," publican Chris 'Choppy' Connor, said.

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But he is in dispute with the owner, George Nicola, who said he was seeking a new tenant. The pub would re-open, perhaps quite soon.

Mr Connor was heartbroken. "It's not about the money. It's about the community and it's about the people," he said.

"That pub is the heart and soul of the place. People are blown away by the hospitality."

He said that Covid had hit business hard. The lockdown meant he couldn't serve food and drink to customers indoors. He bumped up the takeaway business and held online meat raffles.

Publican Chris 'Choppy' Connor. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Publican Chris 'Choppy' Connor. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"It was real amateur-hour stuff. It started off with just two of us cracking jokes and carrying on. I've never done anything like it before," Mr Connor said.

Quite unexpectedly, the online meat raffle developed a cult social media following.

"It became a bit of a logistical nightmare trying to film ourselves, tell the jokes, run the raffle and read all the comments coming in so more and more people came on board to help us manage it," Mr Connor said with a laugh.

"It got so big I had to spend most of Friday getting prepared."

But it's not been enough.

Gundaroo publican Chris 'Choppy' Connor in the beer garden. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Gundaroo publican Chris 'Choppy' Connor in the beer garden. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

He sent a message to staff: "With extreme heartbreak, frustrations and dismay we have been locked out of the pub. I am hoping this is a temporary issue and am doing everything possible to work out a solution.

"The longevity of the pub is crucial and I have been working on this over the past 12 months, unfortunately negotiations have broken down. I ask each and everyone of you to stay calm and positive knowing I am doing everything possible."

It doesn't look hopeful. It's hard to know how much is a negotiating stance but the owner says he is looking for a new tenant and reckons the pub could reopen within a few weeks, perhaps sooner.

The plight of the Colonial Inn is no doubt mirrored across country Australia where the local pub is more than cold beer and a Friday night schnitty. It's invariably a meeting place, fireside chat-fest, music venue and a big supporter of local sports and charities.

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The story Gundaroo pub runs dry in dispute first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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