Questions over the fate of the Pub With No Beer

The Pub With No Beer has been a cornerstone of Stuart Johnson and Joe Kyle's lives. They couldn't imagine life without it.
The Pub With No Beer has been a cornerstone of Stuart Johnson and Joe Kyle's lives. They couldn't imagine life without it.

They breed 'em tough up in Taylors Arm.

If you wanted proof, you'd only need to sit at the Pub With No Beer for an hour or two and listen to the daily feats of heroism that have been on display since the firestorm raged over the mountains.

There are men there who have lost everything, some covered in bruises and burns, but who refuse to be cowed into submission.

They're out on the front line day and night battling this nightmare to make sure that not one more person has to suffer.

These blokes epitomise the word 'hero' and the community couldn't be more grateful to them.

Even RFS firies are taking their hats off to their Herculean efforts and sheer determination.

The tension remains high in the village with the Kian Rd fire still burning, and the Carrai East fire sneaking up through Bakers Creek. The Pub is one of the only places of refuge, where neighbours can come to sink a beer or four, get the latest on the fires, and share a joke so as not to break.

"Fire all around us - just another day in paradise," quips one local propped up on a stool.

So when word spread faster than the fires that the Pub was going to be shutting its doors, there was understandable panic and upset.

Only days after the fire ripped through farms in the area, the Pub's staff sat down for what they thought would be a meeting to congratulate them on the extra work they'd been doing since the Pub became an unofficial evacuation centre.

They were outraged when instead of thanks they received redundancy letters.

Joe Kyle is the longest-serving patron of the Pub. He's been drinking there since before it received its notoriety. He was shocked when the news reached him - he couldn't imagine a life without the Pub.

Photo by Donna Baldwin

Photo by Donna Baldwin

"I love me ol' Pub. This is my home," he said.

"It's a part of me flaming life - all my family has been through here. Back in the old days my grandfather used to pull in here with his bullock team on his way to Coffs Harbour with his logs."

He's effusive in his passion for the Pub and its history.

"You might know a great bloke called Gordon Parsons who wrote the song this pub is named after. Well, I knew the man," he said.

He points to a black and white picture on the wall of himself as a youngster in the '40s.

"Back then this place was a big community. It used to have shops - a butcher, a baker, a timber mill, banana processing. But that's all gone now. This is the last thing standing. Did you know there's no other employment in Taylors Arm? This is it," he said.

I wouldn't know what to do if it closed. If it goes, I'm going.

According to the current leaseholder, Wade Clarke, the Pub With No Beer is not closing down.

He's been trying to on-sell the lease to the Pub for over a year but has been unsuccessful.

Now the lease is simply being surrendered back to the Pub's owner, Murray Howe - the man behind Port Stephens-based Murray's Craft Brewing Co.

Wade said staff would be rehired by Murray, and former manager Joanne Nelson will step in for the next three months to run the Pub.

He said the confusion arose because he wasn't at liberty to talk about Murray's plans when he handed out the redundancy letters.

"All I could say was that they can no longer work for me," Wade said.

He said the Pub will close for a short period on Monday to allow for the contract to settle and stocktake to be done.

But as soon as the paperwork settles the pub will open again, which could be just a couple of hours depending on the bank.

Wade Clarke

Wade said he's "thoroughly enjoyed" his time in the Valley and would treasure the friendships he's made. He also said he's proud of the contribution he's made to the local community by increasing support for RSL nights, and local sporting teams.

The initial panic from the local community has now largely been replaced by a lingering anxiety over the future of the Pub.

Many are asking what happens once three months is up.

Stuart Johnson comes from one of the first families to settle in the area and is the president of the Taylors Arm RSL sub-branch - one of the smallest active sub-branches in the country.

The RSL uses the Pub as a base to host its meetings and weekly raffles which are generously supported by the community.

"This is where we gather a little income. We'd have to consider our future, how we'd survive financially if this place closed," he said.

"At Anzac Day people come up here after the service. They always have bands on and it's almost like a family gathering.

"Families that have left come back because they have family members honoured in the service and it means a lot to them to be able to come back here.

This Pub's a part of history. I can relate to the characters in the song - they're true. It means a lot to the people who come to see it and it means a lot to us.

"This place is also a community gathering place. Anyone who's got an issue can come here to sort it out.

"Without this Pub it would certainly be very hard to keep the community spirit going."