Armatree Hotel, Hair of the Dog Inn publicans encourage local tourism

Publican Ash Walker behind the bar at he and his wife Lib's Armatree Hotel. Photo: Rachael Webb.
Publican Ash Walker behind the bar at he and his wife Lib's Armatree Hotel. Photo: Rachael Webb.

Two publicans from drought affected communities in central west, NSW, urge not only the every day Australian, but big city businesses as well, to get out to small regional towns affected by the dry.

Ash Walker from the Armatree Hotel and Brad O’Leary at Ballimore’s Hair of the Dog Inn, both agree visiting rural towns will inject a much need cash flow into local economies.

Buying a cup of coffee, a meal at the local pub or staying the night would help those communities, Mr Walker said.

The Armatree publican would also like to see the nation’s biggest companies support regional NSW.

“I really want to put the call out to (big metropolitan) businesses... instead of having their annual board meeting at their office in Sydney, they should be taking it to places like Gilgandra, Mudgee and meet with their clients,” he said.

Mr Walker said it would be a small investment from the company.

“But that injection... is what helps keep rural communities alive,” he said.

Mr Walker hasn’t seen a decline in liquor consumption due to the drought.

He said business has grown each year due to a mix of clientele, including traveling grey nomads and a variety of events held at the pub which has brought more people in.

Teamwork: Brad and Kahlee O'Leary, took over the Hair of the Dog Inn at Ballimore, in 2017. Photo:: Contributed.

Teamwork: Brad and Kahlee O'Leary, took over the Hair of the Dog Inn at Ballimore, in 2017. Photo:: Contributed.

”That in itself is good for our locals. Our locals probably feel like their stuck on the farm because of the drought, they’re feeding and don’t have the opportunity to get away,” Mr Walker said.

“So when they get to come to the pub, they get to meet someone from a totally different area… they have a totally different conversation with their next door neighbor…I find that that in itself is a really good for our local farmers mental health.”

Mr Walker said approximately 80 per cent of the pub’s client base are involved in the agricultural sector.

A similar figure and clientele is seen at Ballimore’s pub, Mr O’Leary said, with approximately 70 per cent of customers coming from the ag industry, with many travelers choosing to stop there, instead of bigger cities.

“People might think they’re only calling into a village to buy lunch, but it goes so much further than that in a lot of ways,” he said.

“Everything makes a difference.”

The Ballimore publican hasn’t noticed too much of a customer decline due to the drought.

“But when we took over the business in 2017, that for us was the start of the dry times,” Mr O’Leary said, whose family run a property just outside of Ballimore.

“We notice when there is a nice bit of rain we get a lot of the locals down (at the pub).”

Mr O’Leary said a drought not only affects farmers, but the local community too.

“Whether it’s the butcher or news agents or local corner store.. if the funds aren’t there… it’s not going to go back into the local area,” he said.

Armatree’s publican said the Government has done a reasonable job on delivering drought aid.

“It’s very hard to put a big band-aid over a big area when everyone’s circumstances are totally different,” he said.

“I do hear regularly there is a lot of issues with actually applying.. and that needs to be streamlined.”

Across the Armatree region there are a lot of dryland croppers and mixed farmers.

“We’re in for another 12 months of pain yet, before we get into a cash-flow positive cycle,” Mr Walker said.

Mr Walker said people in the Armatree district are resilient and tell him droughts have come and gone before.

“We have to just batten down the hatches and work our way through this,” he said.

“There is always light at the end of the tunnel.”