A young family restores the Toompine Pub and brings a remote QLD town to life


You’ve heard of the pub without beer, but what about the pub without a town?

Only one family lives in the remote township of Toompine, Queensland.

The Toompine Pub – otherwise known as the Toompine South Western Hotel – has been a social fixture for families living in the surrounding railway stations since the late 1800s.

So when the future of the town’s watering hole fell apart in 2019, longtime Merrie Downs residents and ranchers Stu and Kate Bowen felt the need to step in.

“There was a chance it was blocked,” Mr Bowen said.

“We thought the community would die if that happened, so it skyrocketed from there.”

Go home

After more than a century of use, the Toompine Pub needed more than just a change of ownership to keep alive the sense of community it fostered.

It needed work.

A lot of work.

The Bowens believed that by buying the pub they would attract much needed labor to the empty town.

Enter Stu and Kate’s daughter, Lauren Bond.

COVID and flooding have made restoring the Toompine Pub even more difficult.(Provided: Lauren Bond)

“It was my dream to own the Toompine pub, dad too,” Ms Bond said.

“It was always something we wanted to do.”

Mrs Bond, who formerly worked in the hotel industry, and her husband Sean, a carpenter by trade, packed their bags in Toowoomba and moved to Toompine with their two young children, Izzy and Blair.

The couple now have another child on the way.

“We came here every Friday night when I was a kid, maybe I came here in my pre-teens and early adulthood,” Ms Bond said.

“It’s always been local, so it’s always been my second home.”

Three women dressed for race day stand arm in arm at the Toompine Pub.
Jane Pike (left) says the atmosphere in the pub feels like it used to.(ABC Western Qld: Melanie Groves)

Restored, not renovated

At first, the restoration of the old pub seemed somewhat simple, but when the pandemic hit and the pub closed, the true scale of the job revealed itself.

“We had to redo the roof. The roof was leaking and it had been running down the walls for a long time and feeding the white ants by wetting the floorboards,” Ms Bowen said.

“We had to re-plumb, and the wiring was dodgy. There may have been bare wires on the tin, which is a recipe for disaster. It’s a wonder he didn’t burned.

“It was about being gentle with the pub and its history without hurting it, and I think we did a good job.”

A Queenslander style pub with a large tin roof and green lawns.
Lauren Bond’s great-great-aunt owned the pub in the 1940s for around 30 years.(Provided: Lauren Bond)

The pandemic then added another element of difficulty to the already distant restoration work, as Mrs Bond and her builder husband discovered.

“Trying to get materials with COVID and then with the floods here and elsewhere impacted us,” she said.

“So trying to get things was a six month wait.”

After years of delays and hard work, the pub had a soft launch on Tuesday with a Melbourne Cup event that included cocktail parties and yabby races.

The town gets a life-changing new bore

It’s not just the beers that will be flowing in the remote backcountry community, but essential water from a new borehole in the city.

The Quilpie Shire Council said it had secured over $670,000 in funding from the Queensland Government to replace the 104-year-old Toompine aging bore.

The project is expected to cost just over $780,000 and construction is expected to be completed by May 2023.

Ms Bond said the reliability of a new bore would be life changing.

“It also means a lot, not just for the pub or for our tourists, but also for the road works and the surrounding properties,” she said.

“Because there are properties that lack water, but we can use it as fast as the reservoirs fill up.”

Council chief executive Justin Hancock said it was important to provide a variety of services to smaller communities like Toompine.

“It’s basically the pub without a town,” he said.

“There’s the pub, the town hall, a leisure facility, a tennis court and a playground, and that’s about it.

“It is important to ensure that an adequate water supply is available all year round.”

A young woman with blond hair is holding a beer at the bar.
Becky Murton from the UK serves drinks at the Toompine Pub, as part of her working holiday visa.(ABC Western Qld: Melanie Groves)

Back to Toompin

While the hotel’s new publicans opened their first barrel last week and welcomed race-day revelers through their doors on Cup day, Lauren Bond said the grand opening was yet to come.

“We’re dying to do a ‘back to Toompine’ weekend next year,” Ms Bond said.

“There are so many former families who have been part of the pub, so many tourists all over Australia saying they want to be here for the opening.

“So probably when it starts to cool down next year, we’re looking forward to that.”

A woman in red and white checkered smiles leaning on a bar, in front of a fridge full of beers.
Lauren Bond says a third of the surrounding community showed up to support their Melbourne Cup day event.(ABC Western Qld: Melanie Groves)

For Stu Bowen, seeing the community gather around the old pub is a dream come true.

“It gives me great joy when I see people together, laughing and having a good time,” he said.

“It really makes all the hard work worthwhile.”


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