The sons of the former owners of the iconic Conargo Hotel have brought it back to life after a ruinous 2014 fire.

Story Carly Marriott   Photos Neil Newitt

Many moons ago, a young bloke wanted to make a quick dollar, so he made bumper stickers to sell over his Dad’s bar. C O N A R G O  P U B. Two words, no graphics, black on white. 

To the uninitiated, it might have meant nothing, but to every self-respecting ute owner, it said everything. 

Today, that same man, Paul Lodge, in partnership with his brother Michael and a pair of local cockies, has rebuilt the burnt-down hotel in the heart of the NSW Riverina and in doing so, has resurrected the iconic pub behind the sticker.  “Our parents Betty and Neville ran the Conargo Pub for 25 years through the 1960s and ’70s and Dad was a prime mover in making it famous,” Paul says. The bumper-sticker businessman cut his teeth manning the front bar before spending the next 43 years splitting time between his stockbroking firm’s offices in Melbourne and Sydney. 

Paul recalls the good old days on the banks of Billabong Creek, hosting B&S ball Sunday sessions after the Conargo Burr Cutters Ball and the Jerilderie Round Up. Having the keys to the place in his pocket during those formative years was, apparently, a lot of fun. “I operated the hotel from when I was 18 to 25 and, I must admit, it was a good position to be in at that stage in life, with mates on both sides of the bar,” Paul says.  

This story excerpt is from Issue #149

Outback Magazine: June/July 2023