Owners of the hub of Drake, the Lunatic Hotel, are about to wind up the business after years of systemic harassment by unknown enemies.
Having run the hotel for over a decade, Desley and Bob Kane have experienced over seven years of persistent rumours, abuse, lies and petty vandalism that has all but broken their spirit.
Too cowardly to confront them for whatever wrongs they are supposed to have committed, there have been threats, accusations, and ‘tip-offs’ to OLGR, but the final straw came on Anzac Day when sabotage to their toilets coincided with a complaint to Council that “kids were playing in sewerage”.
“We’ve simply had enough,” Desley said to PubTIC.
“Yesterday we had Barnaby Joyce come here after hearing the news on our closure, and someone blocked the toilets again. It’s a personal vendetta.”
A popular stop for tourists, the pub is festooned with memorabilia and so many motorcycles “some have to be kept in a container” out the back – instead of in the bar, with the others.
But importantly, like so many country hotels, it is the hub, the meeting point in emergencies, often the only place with phone coverage in the area, and simply the second home people of Drake go to feel safe.
The Lunatic has raised over $120,000 for the all-important Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service over the past eight years. The Rural Fire Service was quoted in the Northern Star as thanking the couple for feeding them all in a crisis: “there must have been 40-plus hot meals sent out”.
Recently, a local called saying he was having a heart attack. Desley arranged an ambulance and guided it to the man, who is now in hospital awaiting surgery.
“We’re pleased with all the support, but I have already begun winding down the business and we will close by the end of July if no-one buys the pub,” lamented Desley.
“It’s been on the market for a while, and we haven’t had any real offers yet even though our accountant, who has watched the business grow over the last 12 years, says the figures are very good.
“But it’s reached the point where we’ve simply had enough of the abuse. We’re not getting any younger, and it’s so exhausting.”
Those executing the vendetta, which Desley believes is a handful of locals, have succeeded in keeping their identities and motives unknown. But even since the announcement, have circulated rumours it comes due to bankruptcy and management issues, and harassed those who have shown support for the pub.
The Kane’s plan to carry on the accommodation aspect of the business, renting to backpackers working on the local blueberry farms, and close the pub if no buyer is found. The liquor and poker machine licenses will be suspended for the foreseeable future.
The rural community of Drake, located around 60 kilometres west of Lismore in northern NSW, is home to a (mostly) tight-knit community of around 400 people, and part of the well-worn tourist routes – regularly attracting groups of caravanners and intrepid travellers such as the Ulysses bike club.
Contact Desley and Bob for any further information on the sale of the pub. firstname.lastname@example.org