Great pub grub is taking hold in the regions, with the Old Bush Inn ditching its pokies to make room for more hungry patrons.
Taking over the iconic pub – South Australia’s second-oldest – in late 2014, Gavin Collings and Christina Repetti are living their dream to be part of the Willunga community.
Collings told PubTIC that after a year, the couple decided the area housing the poker machines would be far more profitable as an extension to their bistro.
“It was hard during winter, on Friday and Saturday nights, turning patrons away because we didn’t have enough room to seat them for dinner … while the pokies sat idle.
“We studied the books month-to-month, and they were the only part of the business doing downhill. We didn’t want them as part of our business model, going forward.”
The semi-open plan room allowed noise from the machines to disturb diners. The aging machines at the hotel have now been decommissioned, and the GMEs sold.
The area will now feature bench seating instead, and bring space for another 20 patrons. Over coming months it will see new carpet, furniture and refreshed interior fitout.
Head chef Al Pettet will steer the kitchen, putting out what Collings describes as “good quality pub food”, with weekly specials, summer and winter seasonal menus.
“We try to be creative with the menu, to keep people interested,” says Collings.
While his parents operated pubs in his native New Zealand, Collings says he and partner Repetti, who hails from the US State of Washington, have never owned or operated a pub before.
After 30 years in the automotive industry, Collings sold his business and has built a house in nearby Sellicks Beach. He and Repetti had long hoped to move permanently to the area, around 20 kms south of Adelaide.
The National Trust reports that the pub is in fact the third hotel in Willunga to be called that the Bush Inn. The present building was constructed during Federation (1901) on the site of the previous Bush Inn, which in turn was across from the original.
The Hotels have played important roles in the community, previously used as the Courthouse, and for District Council and public meetings.
“Poker machines can have a legitimate place, but they can also be evil,” Collings continued.
“For me, there has been very good feedback from people all over.”