Closing time: Barmaid Pat pulls her final beer

PAT Burgess has been a fixture behind the bar of Tamworth’s iconic Central Hotel for more than 40 years.

But today a career of pulling beers, stacking glasses and lending a sympathetic ear to troubled barflies will end.

The Central Hotel is closing its doors in order to undergo a major refurbishment and Mrs Burgess will not be back when it reopens.

“It’s the end of an era,” she said. “I’m going to miss it. I liked meeting people and talking to people and just the atmosphere of the place.”

Her tenure coincided with the first staging of the country music festival

in 1973 and she remembers fondly the characters who would come back year after year.

From her vantage point, she has seen first-hand dramatic changes to Australia’s famed pub culture – many of which she considers are not for the better.

One of the biggest has been the rising price of alcohol.

When Mrs Burgess pulled her first schooner in 1973 it set the drinker back a measly $1.20.

That same beer, 41 years later, now costs $5.30.

“There’s been a lot of changes,” she said.

“You don’t get as many in as you used to do, whether that’s because of the smoking (restrictions) or the price of beer, I’m not sure.”

Mrs Burgess would like to make one change of her own, however, in order to cut down on alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.

“I’d like to see all the pubs close at 12 o’clock because kids these days don’t come out until 10pm or 11pm and they’re half-charged by the time they get here,” she said.

“If they closed at 12 o’clock, they’d probably go back to their houses and be off the streets. That might not be everyone’s view, but it’s what I think.”

Mrs Burgess, together with her son Gary and his wife Belinda – the licensees for the past 18 years – will be among those farewelled at a special staff party tomorrow.

The Central Hotel’s renovations could last up to a year, with the building rumoured to be reopening as an upmarket motel and restaurant.

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