THE “ugly” face of modern pub culture and a yearning for a change has prompted two of Tamworth’s most popular publicans to call it quits.
Gary and Belinda Burgess, licensees of the iconic Central Hotel for the past 18 years, have announced they will pull their last beer on March 8.
The heritage-listed, art deco-style hotel, occupying one of the city’s prime commercial sites, is set to undergo an extensive refurbishment from next month.
While building owner Les Atallah would not elaborate on his plans, The Leader understands an upmarket motel and restaurant will form part of a development application to council.
It is not known whether the tavern on the bottom floor of the hotel will continue as is.
Mr Burgess said it was the “end of an era” for he and his wife, admitting it would be an emotional final few weeks.
“It will be a sad, sad day when we leave and we’ll miss it a lot,” Mr Burgess said.
“Our kids virtually grew up here and the people we’ve met – the musos, actors, footy stars – have been amazing.
“We even let Kasey Chambers busk out the front with the Dead Ringer Band when she was just starting out.”
Mr Burgess, Tamworth’s longest-serving current hotelier, said his passion for running a pub had dimmed in recent years.
“It’s getting tougher, especially the way kids drink now – the culture has changed,” he said.
“Drugs and violence have really changed it. The price of alcohol hasn’t helped, either; people just can’t afford to go out and drink now.
“Our generation of drinkers are getting older and the younger ones are going to the younger venues.”
The couple have no firm plans for the future, opting to take time off and pursue other career opportunities.
Mr Atallah paid tribute to the Burgesses for their nearly two decades of support.
“We’ve had a perfect relationship and I don’t know if I’ll be able to have that relationship with any other tenant,” Mr Atallah said.
“I do want to upgrade the building and bring it into the 21st century, but I can assure people the outside will remain exactly as it is.”
They will hold a special thank you night for regular patrons on March 11.