AS far as great country pubs go you just can’t drive past the Walkabout Creek Hotel, at McKinlay in north-west Queensland, without stopping in.
Tourists travelling the Landsborough Highway agree.
Their trade has saved the popular watering hole’s revenue stream from drying up, as local businesses continue to feel the pinch of drought.
Debbie Wust, the owner of the hotel made famous for its starring role in the blockbuster hit Crocodile Dundee, said the Walkabout Creek Hotel is “definitely one of the lucky pubs.”
“Being on one of the major tourist routes, we’re going to get people calling in to have a look or go to the toilet and grab a soft drink while they’re here,” Ms Wust said.
“Whereas the poor pubs off the beaten track, who don’t have tourists and may only get one or two people in a day, they’d definitely be feeling [the effect of drought].
“Farmers just don’t have the money to waste.”
Ms Wust and her husband Frank purchased the Walkabout Creek Hotel last March after falling in love with the pub on a road trip to the Boulia Camel Races.
Their tourism season – which typically runs from Easter until the September school holidays – has begun to a disappointing start.
“It’s definitely much slower than what it was this time last year,” Ms Wust said, estimating anywhere upto 30 caravans had been going through every day.
She’s expecting the drop to equate to almost one third of their revenue for the tourism season.
Like many on the tourist route, the Wusts rely on a successful season to see them through the rest of the year where they’ve taken as little as $40 across the bar for an entire day.
At the weekend Fairfax Media reported that Mount Isa MP Robbie Katter was urging Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath to consider a different liquor licensing fee system "that recognises the limited income" of regional and rural hotels, particularly in difficult times.
He said the annual liquor licence administration fee of $3273 was unfair for country pubs who had a smaller number of patrons.
While Ms Wust supports relief for “hard-hit” pubs, particularly surrounding severe running costs, she said the licensing fees are anticipated costs worked into budgets.
“You’re a pub, you know you have to pay your licensing fees – it’s just like paying your rates,” she said.
McKinlay Shire has been declared in drought since April 1, 2013.