NEW OWNER RESTORES HOPE TO HISTORIC CAPTAIN

Captains Flat Hotel has seen its share of ups and downs over the last nine decades, and with new owner Sharanne Witt it’s set to be on the rise again once it is back serving the locals next month.

An hour south of Canberra, the village of Captains Flat first saw its namesake built around 1937, where the pub served 3,500 local miners at the height of the mining boom.

Image: Two Little Birds

The quintessential Aussie pub reportedly went through over 100 36-gallon barrels of beer weekly during peak periods, accommodating patrons along its (then) 32.2 metre bar, the longest in Australia. Still sporting tiled walls in the public bar, at some point the old boozer became home to a legend that beer glasses will mysteriously cling to the wall.

In the 1960s, the mines closed and families like Ms Witt’s moved out of Captains Flat.

But her connection to the pub remained.

Her mother and grandmother had lived at the Captains Flat Hotel, where her grandmother worked as a cook, while across the road her grandparents owned the butcher shop.

Ms Witt’s daughter Kaitlin later developed an interest in the pub too, wanting to buy it someday, but for a while its future looked uncertain.

The pub closed in 2020, and a proposed sale fell through during 2021.

In 2022, Tracey and Greg Durr purchased the property, and with a lot of hard work returned the building to its former glory over the following twelve months.

“Our main goal was to restore the beautiful grand old lady,” Ms Durr said at the time.

“Hopefully someone will continue to love and respect this wonderful old building.”

Yet when the Durrs put the pub on the market in December 2023, it failed to sell at auction.

They then offered the pub for sale again, this time with vendor finance for the right applicant.

Katlin saw the pub was for sale, and convinced Ms Witt to call the owners. By the end of the phone call, the pub was sold to the Witts.

Overwhelmed by the sudden $1 million purchase, Ms Witt was excited and scared.

Sharanne Witt. Image: Facebook

“It was very spur of the moment, I thought oh my god what have I done? I’d just retired,” she told Canberra Daily.

While Ms Witt had not run a pub before, she had experience in running bed and breakfasts.

Believing the pub to be the heart of the town, Ms Witt aims to restore it to its rightful place in the community.

Initially the Captain will open the bar and serve traditional pub food, with Ms Witt intent on keeping as much of its original character as possible, explaining she is ‘working out the logistics’ of not changing things.

Plans will then follow for the residential-zoned pub to extend services to include a wedding reception area, a distillery, coffee shop and pop-up markets.

“We have some big plans for this place,” Ms Witt said.

“We can’t wait. But I have to say, it already feels like we’ve come home.”

The pub includes a beer garden, sitting and dining areas, and twenty-one guest rooms, all on over 2k square metres.

Locals are more than happy with the new ownership, long-term resident Jason Platt declaring it is “good to see” the famous pub reopen.

Captains Flat Hotel will hold its soft opening on 22 June, with the official launch on 29 June.

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