Just over a year ago, Tracey Durr and her family bought the Captains Flat pub, southeast of Canberra.
It was a shadow of its former self – the one remaining pub in the former mining community – that was still standing. In its heyday, the town boasted five pubs, a hospital, shops and a convent – the latter still there but now a private home.
The family first looked at buying it in 2020, when, despite its rundown condition, they saw the potential of the building with its art deco style. It was more than “just beer and rooms” so when it came on the market the following year, they bought it.
“Our goal,” Tracey Durr said, “was to restore this lovely old building. Not renovate it, but bring it back to her former glory. It was deteriorating and at risk of being stripped, gutted and losing its wonderful character. It is such a beautiful building, we just wanted to save this piece of history.”
Tracey, who lives with her husband Greg and sons Charlie and Jack at nearby Carwoola, said they spent the first six months getting rid of rubbish that had accumulated on the site while it had been leased for the previous seven years – “we took out 10 large commercial fridges alone that were in the back courtyard”.
“It was probably about six months before we could start the real restoration work after we cleared out all the rubbish. Then we started painting the place, put new carpet in, a new scullery and sourced some antique furniture to fit the period.”
Today, the classic Aussie pub boasts a new, refreshed face, four bars and 21 guest bedrooms on the 2024-sqm-plus site, as well as the three-bedroom manager’s quarters.
The plan, too, was to make it more of a family-friendly pub, with the conscious decision taken not to allow poker machines or other gambling in the pub.
“We wanted to change the atmosphere of the place,” she said. “We’ve made it kid-friendly and dog-friendly, just a good place where families can go.”
In March this year, they staged Back to the Flat at the pub, telling locals and visitors that the grand old lady of Captains Flat was open for business again.
But today, as far as the family are concerned, their work is done – and they’ve put the pub on the market, calling for expressions of interest.
“We’ve done all the hard work,” Tracey said. “The new owners can just walk in. Everything is ready to go.”
The Captains Flat pub opened its doors back in 1937 at the height of the mining boom – and it was the last of five to remain standing.
Even when the mining industry shut down in the 1960s, the pub remained open, but closed temporarily when COVID-19 hit.
Like many traditional Aussie pubs, stories about it have turned into legends over the years, from it boasting the longest bar in the Southern Hemisphere – it did, at 32.2 metres, long before it was chopped back to 22.8 metres – to why beer glasses have been known to stick to walls in the public bar.
“The place has so much character,” Tracey said. “We’ve really enjoyed our time here although it has been hard work. But we’re ready for a new challenge now.”
Expressions of interest are invited for the Captains Flat Hotel through Blackshaw Manuka. They close at 5 pm on 10 October 2023.