BUSH Inn licensee Belinda Smith and her workforce Matt and Tim have been pedal to the metal since mid-April, their six-week refurb now closer to 10.
While the pub, first licensed in 1825, hasn’t been open to customers, the inside has been a whirlwind of work.
And this Saturday, at 11am, that work will be shown to the public for the first time. Two hundred and fifty guests are coming in the door, two bands are scheduled, and the Mayor is booked to do the honours.
Indeed, the early response to the old-new-again Bush Inn from around New Norfolk and the broader valley has been fantastic.
“And it’s all down to these guys, Matt and Tim,” Belinda says. “These are the guys you need to talk to.”
Matt Cameron is currently out on the expanse that is the Bush Inn’s huge back deck. Right now, he’s wrestling dirt into the planter boxes that divide the large space.
Tim Crack, meanwhile, brings close to 20 years’ experience in upgrading pubs around Australia.
Sometimes his attention is the small things, like the bar’s collection of spirits. “A consumer today isn’t interested in just six or seven spirits, but needs to see 40 or 50,” he points out, showing just-cut glassed sections overhead.
Then there’s bigger things, like reworking a small central area in the Bush Inn, right at the entry, so that it can act as a kind of pop-up outlet for local vendors of foods and beverages.
The pub’s already got a lineup of people, ready with fresh and local food-wine combos for the incoming customers.
Elsewhere, dining tables and chairs that saw duty for decades have gone off to the dumpster, along with ancient wallpapers and carpets, lighting fixtures and outdated commercial kitchen equipment.
Belinda won’t tell you the size of the budget for all this work, but admits she blew right through it.
She looks over the smart Chesterfield sofas around one fireplace, new chairs with matched pale wood tables throughout the restaurant, new green carpet underfoot and handsome chandeliers overhead.
The place is now a pleasure to walk through, she says. “We’ve done so much in a really short time. This place has great bones,” she adds.
“We’ve given it the heritage colours that a classic – and classy – country pub should be showing, and outside, I mean, look at that view over the Derwent. Nothing as good as that anywhere in town.”
Belinda doesn’t see the other hotels in New Norfolk – High Street’s Star and Garter and the New Norfolk Hotel – as competitors. “We’re gaming-free, and providing something new and fresh, both across the bar and out of the kitchen. We’re our own market,” she says.
“Literally, hundreds of people have come in to see what we’re doing, and they’re so excited to see the place get a new life.
“We quickly booked out our reopening day, this Saturday. Beyond that, the reservations list is already at another 400.”
And the work is not done yet. New toilets on the ground floor are in the works, and longer term, the inn will add ensuite bathrooms to some 15 rooms.
Where will Belinda be on July 1?
“Anywhere I’m needed,” she says.