What does it take to get a beer in Apsley? Twelve farming families, a retired stockbroker and a ‘sold’ sticker.

Story By Gretel Sneath

The ‘closed’ sign had been on the door of Apsley’s historic Border Inn Hotel for more than two years when a group of locals figured it must be their shout. While the small farming community in Victoria’s far west had adjusted to the loss of its general store and service station, the pub was a different story. The town was missing its social hub.
Mike Ryan is part of the 23-strong syndicate that brought the 165-year-old business back to life a year ago. He spent 30 years working as a stockbroker before heading home to retire and was in Apsley less than a fortnight when opportunity knocked. “A local called and said, ‘You’re probably the only person with a neutral mind about the Border Inn. Can you go and put a value on it and see if it’s worth buying?’,” he says.
The extensive renovations undertaken by the syndicate were hardly the retirement he envisaged, but it’s clear that Mike and the pub are a perfect fit. His business partners are more accustomed to large-scale farming than hospitality, but they look at home in their corner hotel with its distinctive Art Deco facade.
“When you first get a group of people together, it takes a while to find where you belong, but we soon worked it out because it never would have got up and running unless everyone rolled up their sleeves and got into it,” cattleman-cum-publican Noel Ogilvie says.
Fellow farmer-shareholders Simon and Georgina Robinson say solid friendships developed during seven months of renovations in the lead-up to the July 2014 relaunch. “We all manage our own properties, but here we had 23 people who all had to work together as a team, and the cooperation was fantastic,” Simon says. “People ask how we make it work, but we have made an effort to make it work because we are passionate about it.”

This Story is from Issue #103

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2015