From behind the bar at the Gretna Green Hotel, publican Colleen Sharpe couldn’t paint a more idyllic picture of owning a country pub if she tried.
“It’s such a good lifestyle,” she says. “You talk to people all day, and we’ve got such a good clientele, different conversations all day. You laugh and giggle. You come from upstairs, walk downstairs, and you’re at work.”
Mrs Sharpe and her husband Phil “Sharpie” Sharpe bought the pub in Tasmania’s Upper Derwent Valley 16 years ago, moving south from Queensland with their then-eight-year-old daughter Cassie.
When it came up for sale, Mr Sharpe travelled down with a publican mate to check it out and make an offer and called his wife from the bar (after a few drinks) to tell her he’d bought them a pub.
Since then, the clientele – mainly the farmers, bushies and residents of a handful of small towns and hamlets in the area – has become like family.
For their first seven years, the Sharpes lived in the hotel manager’s quarters upstairs, separate but next to the hotel accommodation. On a Friday evening, Mrs Sharpe would often come home to find patrons in their family lounge room with Cassie, watching the Disney channel and eating chips and raspberries the kitchen staff had given them.
On other nights, if drinkers got too noisy after her bedtime, Cassie would barrel down the stairs and tell them to quieten down.
“It has a family atmosphere from the time you walk in the door,” Mrs Sharpe said. “You feel instantly at home.”
But, Mr Sharpe says, it’s time for the couple to move on, so they’re selling up, looking for offers over $590,000.
“It’s time for us to move on now, we’ve done well out of the hotel, and we’ll let someone else have a go now,” he said.
The new owner will be writing a new chapter in the hotel’s long history book. It was built in 1849 and has been continuously licensed since 1862.
A community hub
For the Sharpes, having the pub has made them the centre of the small community.
42 Degrees Real Estate director and sales manager Justin Brown, who lives nearby and is marketing the property, says it’s a community hub. “If I need a tradesperson, I come here,” he said. “It’s a really friendly hotel; the noticeboard is full.” The local school bus picks up children from outside the pub.
Most of the regulars have early starts for work — 3am or 4am — so the hotel’s usually closed up by 7pm early in the week.
On the weekends, the pub hosts motorcyclists doing a country run of pubs set in towns along Tasmania’s winding roads or has car clubs booked in. Out the back, there’s room for motorhomes, which was popular with interstate tourists pre-COVID.
Situated on the Lyell Highway, it’s an easy stop-off for travellers touring the Upper Derwent Valley or on their way to the West Coast and Central Highlands regions. It is also near snowfields, rivers and world-renowned trout fishing spots.
Gretna’s population was 211 when the 2016 census was taken, including the pub’s next-door neighbour Chris Smith, who has featured on Gardening Australia (more than once) for his incredible collection of irises.
The hotel is fully licenced and also includes the licence for the post office across the road.
Bursting with potential
The sale comes at a boom time for nearby New Norfolk, 17 kilometres away, which has residential and community developments underway and is growing as a tourist destination. Its antique shops are increasingly popular; new boutique breweries and spirit distilleries have opened in the past couple of years, and restaurants such as The Agrarian Eatery have been recognised as being among Australia’s best.
“There’s a lot of money being pumped into New Norfolk and this area,” Mr Brown said. “It’s all about potential.”
And as the Sharpes plan to head off around Australia in their own motorhome, they expect visitors to Gretna will only increase as there is more certainty around interstate borders.
“Before COVID, tourism was a big plus,” Mr Sharpe said. “We had the back paddock for self-contained motorhomes, and that was pretty successful because they’d stay here for nothing provided they supported the hotel … And people won’t go overseas with the way it is for a while.”
While everything is in good condition, Mr Brown says there is also a lot of potential for the site – an extended beer garden, more development on the land currently used for motorhomes, upgrades to the accommodation.
“This hotel is still here and still going after all these years and has a lot of potential,” he said.
“You will never, ever regret it,” Mrs Sharpe said. “You will never regret moving into or purchasing a country hotel.”
Five other Tasmanian pubs on the market
Colebrook Tavern: offers over $349,000
Winneleah Hotel: offers over $498,000
Beaconsfield Hotel: offers over $590,000
Marrawah Tavern: offers over $598,000
Tullah Tavern: offers over $890,000
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