In The Hub by Clyde Mooney

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The two women that saved the Colbinabbin Hotel have passed the baton to another two women, carrying on the legacy of the Victorian pub.

The red brick pub has stood on the main road of Colbinabbin, about two hours north of Melbourne, for more than 100 years.

Around four years ago, the long-standing publican moved out and for several months the town was left without a watering hole, until Leigh McArdle and Barb Garvey stepped up and took over.

The two women have turned the business into a hub and focal point of the town, and become heavily entrenched with local sporting teams, such as the Colbinabbin Football Netball Club.

But like all good things, time had come for Barb and Leigh to pursue other interests, and former Colbinabbin local Julie Price had ideas of buying it.

Long-time childhood friend Mary Ann Morgan similarly saw the business was for sale, and heard her old friend was looking into it. Although they had not been in regular contact recently, they met up and soon decided to take on the business together.

“It’s always sort of been a little hidden desire,” Morgan told the Bendigo Advertiser.

After several years at the coalface, McArdle confirmed to PubTIC they had sold “the whole kit and caboodle” and she is looking forward to a break.

“I’m happy to be handing over!”

Price and Morgan still have family and connections in the town, including a new grandchild, and see taking on the Hotel as an investment of faith in the community.

“I think the pub, in some ways, is a bit of a barometer for the town,” said Morgan, who with a background in health, believes aiding the mental wellbeing of residents supports the town as a whole.

The new owners will take over around Easter, with Price moving back to the area soon to spend some time working at the pub before handover. Morgan will share time between her Melbourne legal practice and property in Colbinabbin, and her recently retired husband, Barry, will likely lend a hand behind the bar.

Price and Morgan intend to invest in restoration of the building, and hope to expand on business in the first-floor accommodation and one day open a function space.

They plan to collaborate on tourism potential with local wineries and launch community-building programs such as book swaps, as well as continuing the sporting sponsorships and bringing more dining space and ‘more music’ to the pub.

PubTIC was unable to establish independent contact with the new owners prior to publication.

Colbinabbin Hotel (c.2011). Image: Google maps