Gundaroo Colonial Inn owner George Nicola has promised to reopen after the doors to the heritage pub closed this week (14 July) for the first time in more than a century.
Aged in his late 60s, Mr Nicola has hired managers to run the Inn over the past few years but said it wasn’t working out with current publican Chris ‘Choppy’ Connor.
“I’m not closing the place, I’m not selling the place, there’s no evil plan and it’s not entirely a commercial decision, although that’s the trigger,” said Mr Nicola.
Mr Nicola did say, however, there was an opportunity to sell.
“That’s an unlikely situation, but I’ve got to hear them (potential buyers) out,” he said.
This is the first time the heritage pub, established in 1872 during the gold rush period and also known as Matt Crowes Wine Bar, has closed in more than a century.
News broke on Wednesday when a social media post appeared on Gundaroo Colonial Inn’s Facebook page.
“As a result of breakdowns in negotiations that were taking place in good faith, the Gundaroo Colonial Inn has been closed by the landlord,” read the post.
“Clarifications are being sought as to the reasons behind such action in a time of uncertainty and hardship. Your patience is appreciated as next steps are worked through.”
The post was followed by an outpouring on social media from disappointed regulars and community members keen to see their local stay open.
Mr Connor said he tried hard to keep the pub viable during COVID-19 and didn’t want to leave.
“Things started out amicable but it was very clear the landlord was interested in one thing and that’s money,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to make him understand we’ve been struggling. The pandemic was the last straw.”
Mr Connor said he tried takeaway meals and running an online meat raffle, which subsequently went viral, to keep the pub going through the pandemic.
“I’ve put in so much infrastructure over the past six months it’s not funny,” he said.
Mr Nicola has asked the publican to leave and was talking to “various people” happy to take over the pub.
“It’s going to come back bigger and better. I think it will be a local group, like a family, that will take it,” he said.
Other staff remain in limbo about their jobs. Mr Nicola said they would get “first preference” if they wanted to apply to work under the new publican.
“Running the pub was always a dream,” Mr Connor said. “I’m still asking if there’s an opportunity to stay. I’ve got legal representation but my pockets aren’t deep.”