Neil and Linda Newitt have created a unique meeting place with their wine bar in a photographic gallery in historic Clunes, Vic.

Story By Terri Cowley

If you had told photographer Neil Newitt 12 years ago that he would be living in historic Clunes, Vic, hold the position of mayor, and have his own wine bar, he’d have thought you’d been spending too much time imbibing what he now serves his patrons.
Back then, Neil, his wife Linda and their two young children, Alice and Harry, were living a hectic existence in Melbourne, spending far too much time commuting. Their one salve for city life was weekend getaways to Clunes – population 1000 – where they were feeling a definite pull. Neil grew up in Warwick, Qld, where his father was the superintendent of the ambulance service. So a return to the country was always on the cards.

“I guess it was at the back of my psyche,” Neil says. “Being a councillor and mayor has been a natural progression.” So, too, has the wine bar that takes over his photographic gallery, The Gallery, in the main street of Clunes on Friday and Sunday nights – from 5 to 11pm, and 4 to 9pm, respectively – and for special occasions and events.

“We connected with good friends in a wine bar, so we wanted to be able to foster that experience for others,” Linda says. The couple says the bar is like an extension of their living room and is deliberately set up to be a relaxing meeting place. They casually serve pizza and pastas, but the food is not central to the offering. “We’re not creating the expectation of a restaurant,” Linda says. “It’s a meeting place; you can read a book by the fire, or catch up with friends. The kids can play out the back in the courtyard. Then if you feel like something to eat, you can.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #105

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2016