In Changing Times by Clyde Mooney

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The Hawker Hotel, sole pub of the gateway town to the Flinders Ranges, closed suddenly due to “clerical errors” and now fallen into receivership.

The pub is the pride of the tiny town of Hawker, and the last stop for a cold beer before the Flinders Ranges National Park, in eastern South Australia.

Established 1882, the Hawker Hotel (formerly the Wonoka Hotel) offered respite for travellers, with 20 accommodation rooms and a lounge, beer garden and bistro.

It closed suddenly about a week ago, citing an error in transferring its licences to a new licensee as part of a “business restructure”, which puts it in limbo for up to 30 days.

“Unfortunately, we have been asked to close our doors until all licences are renewed. We are sorry that our clerical errors have had to affect our loyal patrons.

“We will take this time to do some much needed maintenance and staff rejuvenation.”

But South Australia’s Consumer & Business Services reports the Hotel had in fact gone into voluntary administration.

The Advertiser reports that other Hawker businesses, the Old Ghan Restaurant and Gallery and Outback Chapmanton Motel are opening additional days and forgoing much-needed vacation time in the summer peak to service tourists, as “there’s nowhere else for people to go”.

Rural pubs are typically dependent and intrinsically linked to the fortunes of towns such as Hawker, population 200. Changes to circumstance in the town, local core industries or the owners of licensed venues can have stark lifestyle effects on both patrons and subsidiary businesses such as hotels.

Toward the end of 2016, long-timer publican Stan Heausler shut up shop at his iconic Grove Hill Hotel, having failed to find a buyer after four years on the market. The 82-year-old walked away for a sea-change in NSW, far from the outback heat.

Many in Hawker are hoping a solution can be found for the Hotel, and it resume trading before the town ceases to be a stop on the tourist map.


Hawker Hotel, Hawker. Image: Facebook