Walbundrie Hub brings community together on Friday night while pub closed

CLOSED: The Walbundrie Hotel new publicans are waiting for an exception to cross into NSW from Melbourne. Picture: MARK JESSER
CLOSED: The Walbundrie Hotel new publicans are waiting for an exception to cross into NSW from Melbourne. Picture: MARK JESSER

There is something about a country pub that brings people together.

So when the Walbundrie Hotel in NSW's Riverina region closed its doors for good in March, the rural community was left seeking a place to gather, have a beer and a yarn.

After a few brainstorming ideas, the Walbundrie Hub was born.

Run by the community, for the community, the Friday night feed at the sports ground has been running since July and while the pub has since sold, the hub has become a ritual for the tight-knit community.

Licensee Sue Collins said the hub started as a meal and catch up and will continue until the new publicans can open the pub.

"Back in March prior to us all knowing the extent of what COVID-19 would be like the hotel closed their doors and after a couple of months I had a few locals approach me about what we could do to get the community together for a meal and a chat at the sports ground," she said.

"Several phone calls to Liquor and Gaming NSW and the legalities surrounding what we could do, the idea of the hub came about.

"When we finally received the go ahead in July we decided to continue to trade as it was important for the people to get together even if it was only for a short time."

COMMUNITY: Sue Collins and a handful of locals have been running the Walbundrie Hub to bring people together. Picture: MARK JESSER

COMMUNITY: Sue Collins and a handful of locals have been running the Walbundrie Hub to bring people together. Picture: MARK JESSER

New publicans at the pub, known as The Piney, Adam St John and Lindy Curran, are struggling to make the move to Walbundrie as they are in lockdown in Melbourne.

"Our plan is to keep trading until they can get here which we hope is soon because we are heading into harvest," Mrs Collins said.

"I'm not sure people fully understand the importance of a hotel in a small town like ours so we are praying that the red tape will be over and they can get here to begin their new tree change.

"It has never been our intention to compete against the hotel, this is purely filling a void until they can get here."

Operating under a restaurant cafe license the hub serves meals and has a bar, but due to coronavirus restrictions are limited to seating 44 people.

Mrs Collins said the team of volunteers who include Julie McRae, Trish Lieschke, Rachel McMaster, Chris Collins, Nigel Lieschke and Daniel Athanitis, all donate their time to cook, prepare and serve the meals each week.

"There are so many more who know who they are who help out every week as well, whether that is running the bar or doing the washing up and cleaning up after," she said.

"Walbundrie is very tight-knit and being mostly a farming community can sometimes be isolating, so it is important for peoples mental health and well-being to have somewhere to go, someone to talk to even if only for a couple of hours on a Friday night."

This story Their pub closed, so they decided to open a community hub first appeared on The Border Mail.