In Changing Times by Clyde Mooney

Click here to share this article with a friend

After considerable anticipation, the beloved Betoota Hotel – sole structure in the iconic outback town – is set to reopen mid-2018.

Betoota is a speck on the map in outback Queensland, a bumpy six hours’ drive east of outback oasis Birdsville, and home to “Australia’s oldest and favourite newspaper” – the Betoota Advocate.

The town is famed for its population of zero, after loyal 44-year publican of the Betoota Hotel Simon “Ziggy” Remienko passed away in 2004.

Having closed the pub in 1997, Remienko bequeathed it to Birdsville publicans David Brook and Kym Fort, revivors of the Birdsville Hotel, ravaged by fire in 1979, and later the Innaminka Hotel.

The couple determined the Betoota pub was too big a challenge for them, and awaited the right person for the job.

Robert ‘Robbo’ Haken, panel-beater from Logan city – a lazy nineteen and a half hours’ drive east of Betoota – signed the deeds to acquire the town’s long-dry watering hole just days before Christmas.

While he and business partners Carol and Wayne Norman of Norman Timbers have set about breathing some life back into the 21-year dormant Hotel, he reports there will be no architectural changes to the tin roof building, which is scheduled to reopen in August, in time for the annual Birdsville Races.

As well as his east coast smash repair business, Haken and friends operate an outback events company, and foresee much of the future trade with grey nomads and caravanners.

Betoota Advocate editor at large Errol Parker is upbeat about what the reopening means for the town.

“We are very excited to see what the new owners are doing with the place,” Parker told PubTIC.

“There’s obviously a lot of history in that pub, and it warms us that Robbo and Carol are so dedicated to paying homage to Ziggy, the custodian of this famed institution for upwards of four decades.

“It’s great to have a new place for the young ringers to drink outside of the quarters at Mt Leonard station, and it’s great to know that the tourists will be able to learn a bit more about the place through the art of publican yarns.

“Hopefully the traffic will take our town back to the glory days it experienced during the custom tolls boom in the late 1800s.”

And the question on every parched lip in the outback – will the Prime Minister’s favourite brew, Betoota Bitter, be flowing at the pub?

“Betoota Bitter has been the staple beer at the Betoota Hotel since the 1979 XXXX strike, and so it will remain,” confirmed Parker.


The Advocate has previously commentated on the fate of the town’s only pub (or structure of any kind), noting its change in fortunes after “installing eight more brickies laptops”.

It was however premature in its commentary on the pending acquisition of the Betoota Hotel by hotel royalty Justin Hemmes.

Betoota Hotel