ACT News


Old pub, much loved, needs new owner

THE village of Collector just north of Canberra and its homely pub have many things in common with the television series Cheers - Norm and Dianne are behind the bar and everybody knows everybody else's names.

That is where the similarities end between the fictional characters - made famous by George Wendt and Shelley Long - and Braidwood residents Norman and Dianne Betts.

In three years they have revived the 150-year-old Bushranger Hotel from a boarded-up, broken-down inn and transformed it into a buzzing hive of birthday celebrations, ''wetting of the baby's head'' festivities and Hungarian folk dance conventions.

But uncertainty again hangs in the air for the village, with the couple moving on after having injected life into the historic site.

"When we took over the pub it was closed up, as a lot of the places around the town were. Our plan was to come out here for three years, get the place up and running again so the locals had a meeting place,'' Mrs Betts said.

''Norm loves restoring things like vintage cars and bikes and I had an interest in cooking, so it was a nice project for us both to undertake.''


After the Betts took over the Bushranger Hotel, Norman repaired the freezers and renovated the kitchen and the public bar. Dianne, who works in the public service, studied commercial cooking part-time.

While the gastro-pub dining trend continues to gain momentum around the country, the Bushranger Hotel is doing a "ripper takeaway pizza trade", according to Mrs Betts. And tourists appreciate "the old-fashioned schnitzel and steak burger''.

"Winter is the busiest time of year for us with a lot of people passing through on their way to Sydney or the snow. Although last year we hosted a big contingent of Hungarian folk dancers from all around the country in November. The pub was full of noise, colour and life," she said.

''More people seem to be choosing to live out this way as the blocks are bigger and you can fully appreciate the quiet, country lifestyle yet still be close to the major centres like Canberra.''

But a recent quadruple bypass operation for Norm was enough for the couple to decide on a change - and the pub is again looking for new owners "with more energy" to take over and build on the momentum that took three years to generate.

"We've put on country music nights, vintage car expos and catered for large group dinners. Various social clubs all now meet at the pub regularly. Whenever something is happening in the town, whether it be the annual Pumpkin Festival or just local news, people always ring the pub to find out what's happening," Mrs Betts said.