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A new bar is hitting the hotel scene in Central Queensland and is the first of its kind in the Rockhampton region.

A new bar is hitting the hotel scene in Central Queensland and is the first of its kind in the Rockhampton region.

Central Queensland pub revival scene strengthened with new distillery!

The Saleyards Hotel in Rockhampton is being transformed to feature a cafe and bar with its own distillery.

Standing on the main road into Rockhampton, the iconic building has a distinctive triangular shape to fit onto an odd-shaped block of land.

Warren and Catie Brewer bought the hotel late last year along with four other investors from Brisbane and Sydney.

Mr Brewer said it was the perfect space for a distillery.

"The pub itself is a beautiful old building and has the physical space to have a distillery in there as well," he said.

"It's really going to be focused around the distillery; we will be producing our own rum, whiskey and gin."

Distilling spirits has been a passion for Mr Brewer for a long time and when the opportunity arose he jumped on it.

Buying into the hotel came by chance. The couple had been travelling around Australia in their caravan with their young children and had stopped in Rockhampton to visit Mr Brewer's parents.

"My dream of being able to become a distiller and follow my passion of distilling rum is what inspired us really," Mr Brewer said.

Showcasing the region

Not only will the focus be on the distillery, but for Ms Brewer the business would also be about supporting the local region.

"We want to be supporting local music and showcasing Rockhampton," she said.

"Where we are situated we have so much passing tourist traffic, so we want them not to bypass Rocky; we want them to go 'Oh look, they have a distillery here' and they can have a coffee or taste some gin.

"Then what we would also love to do is showcase some photographs and some art from the region."

Two people stand in a room under construction

PHOTO: Catie and Warren Brewer in the middle of renovations at the old hotel. (ABC Capricornia: Vanessa Jarrett)

The Saleyards Hotel was built in the 1800s and was rebuilt when it burnt down in the 1930s.

Ms Brewer would like to share the history of the building itself.

"We are on a search, a big time search, to find some images, anything of the old Saleyards," she said.

"So far I have only found two photos and there has to be more out there.

"So if anyone has any old yarns or has any kind of memorabilia, documentation or just knows a few facts, but photos would be really, really fabulous."

A new take on funding the distillery

The Brewers have turned to crowdfunding to help fund the renovations of the hotel, which was sitting empty before the investors took it on.

"It is a really effective way for us to get money, people are not just donating money on this, they can pre-order the first batch of rum, they can buy a barrel full of whiskey," Ms Brewer said.

"Someone paid to get their name on a barstool, so we are going to get a plaque with someone's name on the barstool.

"So you get something for your money."

For Ms Brewer, the crowdfunding campaign was not just about raising money for themselves.

"To me it kind of feels like, people can kind of be part of bringing the Saleyards together and be a part of something, help a small business start-up," she said.

So far, around $8,000 has been raised on crowdfunding website Indiegogo.

Central Queensland pub revival scene

In recent years, a number of hotels and hospitality venues have opened or gone under renovation around Central Queensland, bringing a number of new venues to the region.

Queensland Hotels Association chief executive officer Bernie Hogan said renovations were necessary in keeping up with the industry.

"In the way the hotel industry works, publicans have to revitalise regularly," Mr Hogan said.

"Patrons are always looking for something new and different so it is rare that you will see any pub just rest on its laurels for a 100 years, they may have been standing for 100 years but they probably would have changed quite a lot on the inside."

With the Gladstone Road venture being the first spirits distillery for Central Queensland, Mr Hogan says it opens a whole new avenue and market for customers.

"Operators are looking to find the edge in their business, something that is a bit of a trend in many markets," he said.

"And you will see from everyone, even the major brewers and producers, that they are looking for a niche market.

"It does not come as a surprise that we are starting to see it happening in a city the size of Rockhampton and that people are attracted to a homegrown brewery or an opportunity to see how spirits are made."

Mr Hogan said distilleries and breweries were becoming widely popular across Queensland.

"Over the last few years there has been a trend of small microbreweries and then some that have started to grow to a substantial size after a few years," he said.

"Even some of the major brewers are going back to their heritage.

"Part of it is tapping in to nostalgia that people have over a previous brand, but also it is educating a new market.

"People have different tastes or preferences, and it is a new opportunity that brewers can turn around and make something that is truly unique for their area."

In relation to the latest pub revival trend around Central Queensland, Mr Hogan was pleased with any newcomers to the hotel industry.

"As part of the industry, we are thrilled to hear of anybody taking on a new adventure; it is very exciting," Mr Hogan said.

"It will never be an easy game to be in but I think it is definitely rewarding and consumers will always flow to the one that is the very best out there."

Article Author

ABC Capricornia By Vanessa Jarrett

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