Insurance costs drive drinks up the wall, owners say

For five years Jeff Bambrick and his family, friends and community worked together to rebuild the Kalkadoon Hotel in the town of Kajabbi.

Surrounded by the red dirt and wide open spaces of rural Queensland, the pub was the crown jewel of the cattle and truck community for almost 100 years, until a declining population forced it to close its doors in the mid-nineties 2000.

Mr Bambrick said residents across the North West had had stars in their eyes since 2014 when he announced he was bringing the iconic watering hole back to life.

But he said he has been blindsided by exorbitant insurance costs since the pub opened this year.

He is one of at least three publicans who have recently renovated remote pubs in the region and been denied insurance or offered inflated prices.

Mr Bambrick was forced to seek insurance overseas.

“Country pubs are somewhere people come to the outdoors – people who work in the bush, who have nowhere to go, nowhere to meet, they can let their hair down and have fun,” he said.

“It’s just next level what these insurance companies look for and the different reasons they turn you down.

“We’re a pub in Queensland and we had to go offshore to get insurance.

The Dajarra Hotel, built in 1917, has a rich history in rural Queensland.(Supplied: Hotel Dajarra)

‘The church that broke the camel’s back’

Richard Ryan runs the Dajarra Hotel, about three hours south of Kajabbi.

He said insurance costs were eating into profits.

“We were paying $28,000, then last year the insurance was $32,000, which was starting to get out of hand.

“Outdoor pubs are often the lifeblood of your small towns – even if you’re not drinking, it’s the center for all your socializing and happenings in your town, tourism.

“It would be the straw that broke the camel’s back and probably end Dajarra in that sense, but we are grateful to have a thriving mining community.”

A dilapidated pub outside with a rusted vehicle resting in the weeds out front.
Quamby was once home to a thriving gold mine, but all that remains now is its pub, which was built in the 1860s.(ABC North West: Chemical Maguire)

Building materials, the location of the main obstacles

Gold Coast builder Nigel Sheiles recently bought the poor Quamby Pub with his wife and friends.

Beyond this, he seeks to build a caravan park, accommodation, toilet block, swimming pool and playground to serve tourists and the surrounding cattle stations.

As a construction industry veteran, Mr Sheiles said he was shocked when he struggled to secure the site.

“They made it really difficult,” he said.

“They didn’t get back to us with quotes and when they did the prices were ridiculously high.

“Everybody seems to be under the impression that because it’s an old wooden building, once we rebuild it, we’re going to burn it down for insurance, which is not the case.

Mr. Ryan faced the same challenges.

“They said the costs were because of the age of my building and because it’s made of wood,” he said.

A man in a work shirt and a big hat stands behind a bar, holding a fresh cold beer.
Jeff Bambrick says the cost of insurance is through the roof.(Supplied: Kalkadoon Hotel)

It calls on the government to intervene

Mr. Bambrick, Mr. Ryan and Mr.

They called on the government to intervene.

“There is too much power and not enough moderation of these insurance companies,” Mr Bambrick said.

“I just think the government needs to do something about these insurance companies, or the government needs to start its own insurance service to cover places like outdoor pubs that are so crucial to country communities.”

Traeger MP Robbie Katter said introducing a market moderator would be a start.

“Outer and remote pubs play a much more important role than standard pubs in Brisbane or Townsville,” he said.

“This is a market failure – and there is no moderator in the market and the system could not give a damn about issues like this.

“You can’t let these small communities go down.

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