THE dream of owning a country pub has come true for one family, which has stepped behind the bar of the Kilkivan Hotel last month.
After leaving their native Victoria in 2014 for an across Australia trip, the Panetta family settled in the sunshine state after purchasing the Glen Echo Dirt Bike and Camping Park in 2015.
The family of five sold the park earlier this year and were eager to take on a new challenge and new publican John Panetta said the chance to own the near century-old pub was too good to pass up.
"It had always been a dream of mine to own a country pub and several years ago I was looking for a pub somewhere in the Victorian high country, but it wasn't meant to be at the time," Mr Panetta said.
"Now the kids are a bit older, the timing was right for us to give this a go and we knew how great the Kilkivan community was so it made it a really easy decision for us."
Along with his wife Karen and daughters Maddi and Leah, Jon said the family had big plans for the pub, while his son Jackson operates Kilkivan Small Engines across the street.
"One of the first things we are looking to do is reintroduce some live musical acts in the beer garden," he said.
"We've got our first one lined up for July 31 and then from there we're aiming to have regular live acts every month or so.
"From what we've been told, the pub turns 100 next year, so we're really hoping to put our spin on things and do this grand pub justice for its 100th birthday."
As well as offering ice-cold beer, classic pub favorites such as steak and schnitzels, the venue also offers motel rooms and self-contained units for accommodation.
"We're currently renovating some of the rooms upstairs and we're hoping to eventually extend out the self-contained units to add a few more," Mr Panetta said.
"At the moment we are working on turning part of top level into a place for Karen and I to stay because we are on a property about 40 kilometres from town, while the kids have a place in town.
"We thought it was really important for us to go all-in and live here as well as run it, so we went for it and it is all coming along nicely at the moment."
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