13 February 2023

New owners to retain the friendly country vibe at Nelligen's Steampacket Hotel

| Katrina Condie
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hotel beer garden

The Steampacket Hotel at Nelligen sold for $3.3 million in January. Photo: Sadil Quinlan Properties.

After driving past the Steampacket Hotel “thousands of times” on their way to the coast, the new owners jumped at the chance to purchase the iconic country pub overlooking the Clyde River at Nelligen.

Ben Johnston and Kalina Koloff bought the property in January and they are excited to continue offering the great food, live music and fantastic events the Nelligen locals have grown to know and love.

While they don’t plan to make too many changes to a good thing, Ben says they plan on giving the hotel a “spruce-up”, which will include renovating the kitchen, landscaping the outdoor areas and improving the car park.

“The previous owners have done a great job and the pub really is the centre of the community,” he said.

“We want to continue looking after the locals and the Batemans Bay community, as well as attracting regulars from Canberra. Our idea is to create a good mixing pot of locals and visitors and a great family venue.”

Live music, raffles, bingo and the hotel markets are set to continue, and Ben says he wants to establish more events like the popular Nellijam Festival, particularly during the quieter months.

“There are so many great music events already, and that is a really big plus for us,” he said.

“The recent Nellijam was a huge success and we’re looking to expand on the music event side of things by bringing a more diverse range of music over summer and during the week, as well as outside of peak time.”

From June, the Steampacket Hotel will be managed by The Meem Collective, which is part-owned by Ben and Kalina and operates the Old Canberra Inn, Dickson Taphouse and Queenies Bar in Kingston.

Ben said the menu would be similar to the popular menu at the Old Canberra Inn, which serves top-notch pub food using fresh ingredients, including free-range meat and quality seafood.

“We’ll be tapping into the amazing seafood on the South Coast, including Clyde River oysters.”

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They’ll be adding more craft beers and retaining the popular mainstream beers to cater for a broad range of tastes.

Located on the Kings Highway 8 km from Batemans Bay, the Steampacket Hotel has been a popular stop for Ben and his family who have enjoyed many a “great burger” and cool drink on their way up or down the Clyde Mountain.

“We’d often stop for dinner on a Friday night and we’ve always thought it would be a great pub to own,” Ben said.

“The location is phenomenal and we’ve noticed over the last couple of years how much the area around Batemans Bay is really taking off.

“There’s a big demand from locals and visitors for more good restaurants and family-friendly places to go out.

“We realised now is the right time to do something special in a part of the world we love.”

Ben Johnston

The Meem Collective Managing Director Ben Johnston is the new owner of the Steampacket Hotel at Nelligen. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Joel and Melissa Alvey have run the hotel for five years and have endured bushfires on their doorstep, COVID lockdowns, floods and a massive hailstorm that forced the doors to close for three months in 2021.

When they re-opened, the community was right there behind them and Melissa says they have made many happy memories.

She said events such as Nellijam, the Winter Breaker Country Party, Great Southern Nights and Steaming Ahead live music events were highlights of their time at the Steampacket Hotel.

“We’ve really tried to push live music at our venue and the events are just getting bigger and better,” she said.

“We have met and made friends with so many amazing musicians, both local and from far and wide.”

She said being involved in fundraising activities to support locals with medical conditions, bushfire recovery, the Cancer Council and the Black Dog Institute highlight the hotel’s community focus.

“We’re very community minded and just like to help those in need – it’s a very rewarding part of running a pub and being able to do that.”

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Before they finish up, Ben said he would love to see the locals get behind Joel and Melissa.

“I want people who haven’t been there to call in, enjoy a great burger and throw them some support,” he added.

The first Steampacket Hotel was built on the riverfront in 1866 and was the watering hole for 150 people in the Nelligen township.

Following a series of floods, the pub was demolished in 1900 and rebuilt on the same site with a higher floor level. It burnt to the ground 25 years later and was again rebuilt on a new site on the Kings Highway.

Sales agent Adam Sadil from Sadil Quinlan Properties says the pub offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a growing area.

“Everyone was happy that the Steampacket Hotel would remain an iconic establishment with new upgrades,” he said.

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