Eltham Pub managers Matt Rabbidge and Luke Sullivan are excited to meet the community, have a beer and a friendly chat and are looking to nurture the true spirit of a country pub while respecting the legacy of this local icon. They have removed the pokie room from the main dining area.
Eltham Pub managers Matt Rabbidge and Luke Sullivan are excited to meet the community, have a beer and a friendly chat and are looking to nurture the true spirit of a country pub while respecting the legacy of this local icon. They have removed the pokie room from the main dining area.

Pokies get the boot as new pub owners make big changes

NEW owners of the Eltham pub and lifelong friends, Luke Sullivan and Matt Rabbidge, used to sit down and discuss future business ventures over a cold one.

When the historical Eltham Hotel, which has stood for 117 years, finally became available, their dream of owning an old style country pub quickly became a reality.

“We were both working for a Northern Rivers brand. I was making beer and Luke was selling beer. We used to sit down, have beers and brainstorm business ideas,” said Mr Rabbidge.

“We came here and we saw an opportunity to pump some life back into an old country pub,” said Mr Sullivan.

“From memory, this was a favourite of ours. I had my first beer here about 14 years ago.”

The plan was to create a safe and social space for the community, where friends and family could catch up for a chat, a laugh, some quality pub grub and a drink or two. For this to happen, Mr Sullivan and Mr Rabbidge were in agreement: the Pokies had to go.

“We felt like we have seen (the pokies) being a little bit destructive in the communities we’ve lived in before, and when we would come to this pub, we felt that they detracted from the venue,” said Mr. Sullivan.

“We wanted to focus more on families, food, and music, and so we felt that they were not a good match.”

Mr Rabbidge said that they were both passionate about the Eltham being a pokie free venue, despite warnings from fellow pub owners.

“The classic or old school way of thinking for most pub industry people was that ‘you guys are crazy, that’s your insurance.’ When you go to the bank, they see pokies as a really important thing,” said Mr Rabbidge.

“But we were confident from the start that we could trade without them and saw that room as an opportunity to put a diner in, instead of having people burning dollars with their heads down. There’s no real reason to be negative here unless you’ve lost your wallet.”

Mr Sullivan and Mr Rabbidge have worked tirelessly to create a social environment, where pub goers can enjoy live music, Tuesday Trivia, and thanks to the newly introduced Science in the Pub, learn some new fun facts and engage in intellectual discussion.

Teaming up with Northern Rivers Science Hub, the next event will discusses the newly published book Australian Rainforest Seeds: A Guide to Collecting, Processing and Propagation.

Authors Mark Dunphy, Steve McAlpin, Michelle Chapman and Hugh Nicholson will be there to unearth some of the secrets of the rainforest. The free event will be held at 5.30pm tomorrow.

Mr Sullivan and Mr Rabbidge will also begin renovations on the hotel rooms in early March. Each room will be inspired by and named after a different influential woman in the area.

“Each room will be a different colour, have different bedding, they’ll all have different artwork. We thought we’d give it a fun take on country accommodation,” said Mr Rabbidge.

“The whole idea is that each room will be a bit of an adventure,” said Mr Sullivan.

Visitors will likely be able to book their stay by late March.