IT’S often said that if a local economy is struggling then pubs are the first thing to go.
And, if that’s the case, then Muswellbrook must be in trouble.
Following September’s closure of The Shamrock Hotel, the town has been left to wonder why three pubs have pulled the plug in the past six months for varying reasons.
The Prince of Wales has receded to just a bottle shop, The Royal is up for lease and The Shamrock closed down permanently, amid safety concerns following damage from the recent earthquakes.
This leaves four hotels open and, with strict lock-out laws in place, much to be desired for the town’s nightlife enthusiasts.
But, the question to be asked is why are these venues toppling at such a rapid rate?
Is it a reflection on the local economy, a turn towards more home-based drinking or just an accurate representation of the town’s population?
Upper Hunter Liquor Accord secretary Daryl Egan said he believes Muswellbrook had been punching above its weight for a long time.
“I think we’ve always had too many [venues],” he explained.
“Some closing is a natural progression because a couple of these buildings are very old and need a bit of work done on them.”
So, is the answer as simple as an oversaturation of hotels?
Not exactly, as he also said people have begun preferring to have a drink over dinner or a barbecue at their property than go out.
“There are statistics that indicate more residents are actually drinking at home,” Mr Egan told the Chronicle.
“I think, one, it’s because of drink-driving; two, because of cost effectiveness; and, three, you have big televisions and all the facilities now at home.
“So, there tends to be a trend that more people are staying at home and not going out as much.”
Maybe the classic Aussie snag is causing the problem then, a cold one and sausage sizzle in front of your 40 inch screen watching the big game is beating out a chicken parmi and a pint after work?
Again, not quite, as Mr Egan believes this is no more than a temporary downturn.
He firmly believes the sector will pick back up and there is no need for concern, regarding the quick-fire collapse it has endured.
“I think some will reopen, definitely,” he said.
“It’s just a coincidence that so many [closures] have happened at the same time for various individual reasons.
“However, I think we’ll find the majority will reopen.”
So, a reassurance of optimism in what has been a poor six months for the local industry, although there is no guarantee things won’t get worse before they get better — watch this space.