Betoota’s iconic bush watering hole reborn

Outback buzzing with news of pub's rebirth


Renovation central: The Betoota Hotel is already reaping the benefits of a little love and attention. Photo: Robert Haken.

Renovation central: The Betoota Hotel is already reaping the benefits of a little love and attention. Photo: Robert Haken.

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News that the iconic Betoota Hotel is to reopen has the outback bush telegraph buzzing.

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Betoota – home to the satirical website, The Betoota Advocate, sand storms and Mt Leonard Station – is set to become a metropolis again, or at least home to a publican and a thriving outback tourist trade.

The bush telegraph was burning up with the news on Monday that after 21 years, the Betoota Hotel is to re-open.

Logan smash repairer, Robert “Robbo” Haken signed the papers for the historic watering hole on the Thursday before Christmas, taking over ownership from the well-known Birdsville business partnership of David Brook and Kym Fort.

He’s excited to be reviving the business, the locals are over the moon and even Robbo’s bank manager is said to be rubbing his hands together.

“The local people were amazed – they came from hundreds of kilometres around to see us when we turned up with all our gear,” Robbo said.

"We’ve just spent 10 days out there, working in 50 degree heat, and had so many offers of help.

“The emails, the phone calls, the texts – it’s incredible.

“I guess it’s because we’re opening up a ghost town. It’s been so dormant and gloomy for so long.

“The whole area is looking for something new and this is it.”

Even before the new venture opens its doors – scheduled for August 18, a week before the annual Betoota race meeting – it’s assured of an income, with the race club pledging to give the hotel its beer and water order for hundreds of patrons.

The pub, the only building in the town sited almost halfway along the long and stony road between Windorah and Birdsville, was best known for its Polish-born publican, Simon Remienko, who managed the business for 44 years before closing the doors in 1997.

When he passed away in 2004, he gifted the building to David Brook and Kym Fort, the pair that rebuilt the Birdsville Hotel after the fire of 1979, and who have since added the renovation of the Innaminka Hotel to their achievements.

“I’m very happy to hear the purchasers plan to do the Betoota Hotel up – it’s what needs to happen,” David said. “We just hadn’t been able to do anything with it – we were really holding it for someone like this.”

Speaking from his own experience, David said while the pub was a good building and in a good spot, there were significant costs associated with bringing in power and water.

He and Kym have spent over a million dollars putting solar power in at Innaminka, which includes 30 accommodation units.

Robbo and his Get Stuffed Outback Events company, made up of himself and a variety of tradesmen friends, including Carol and Wayne Norman of Norman Timbers, said they expected most patrons to be caravanners making use of the common land on Brown’s Creek behind the hotel.

“We won’t have rooms available in the peak time – they’ll be used for staff – but there’s plenty of camping space,” Robbo explained.

He assured all that there wouldn’t be any changes made to the architecture of the pub, nor would there be anything like pokie machines, but they would sell a few groceries and update the kitchen.

Eventually Robbo, who has 4000 acres of country at Glenmorgan, running sheep and cattle, expects to stay for the whole tourist season at Betoota, altering his animal husbandry calendar to suit.

He’ll also be offering his V8 supercars smash repair business for sale to staff members.

Running a pub in the outback is a very different proposition but Robbo said, after the quad bike accident that took the life of one of his sons who was out setting dingo traps, he needed something different.

With the encouragement of the Windorah police in his ears – driver fatigue is a major issue along the remote road – he’s as excited about filling the hospitality void as he is about bringing the pub, its dances and its cricket games back to life.

And the big question, will he be serving Betoota Bitter, the beer of choice of Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull?

Robbo says he’d love to, if he can convince its promoters, the satirical pairing of so-called Clancy Overell and Errol Parker, that he’s fair dinkum.

Turning the tables on the Betoota Advocate creators, Robbo said they thought the news that the hotel was to re-open was a hoax when they first heard it.

Queensland Country Life

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