From Nangunia to the Birdsville Hotel

By Daniel Hughes

Berrigan residents Talia and Courtney Ellis are not shy of taking on a challenge.

As well as managing a mixed cropping and sheep enterprise at Berrigan, purchasing Nangunia earlier this year, the couple has also become double business owners at Birdsville, 1800 km away in Queensland.

Before COVID-19 restrictions came into place they were sharing their time between the two communities, but are now in Berrigan waiting out the border closures.

The Ellises initially purchased the famed Birdsville Hotel in January this year, and over the past few months have also purchased the Birdsville Bakery.

‘‘We’ve always loved the Birdsville Hotel and had previously visited too many times to count,’’ Mrs Ellis said.

‘‘We often landed at Birdsville when flying to various places, and the fact that you can park your plane 50 m from the front door of the pub and get great meals, cold drinks, comfy accommodation and some aviation fuel was always appealing.

‘‘We knew the hotel manager Ben Fullagar and it always kind of felt like home to us, and a place that we could see ourselves running one day.

‘‘We also knew the previous owners and when they wanted to sell, so the timing was just right for us to purchase it.’’

While the Ellises will keep Mr Fullagar on to manage to hotel on their behalf, they are not exactly new to the industry.

Mr Ellis cut his teeth in the pub game as a teenager, when his father was the publican of the Culcairn Hotel.

But not even they could predict the impacts on hospitality businesses when they bought the hotel before COVID-19 hit.

‘‘The COVID situation has been tricky to navigate as it struck not long after we took over the pub,’’ Mr Ellis said.

‘‘We quickly went from gearing up for our first season as the new publicans, to shutting the doors and only operating in a very limited capacity.

‘‘Of course we look forward to next year when we hope to return to a more normal trade.’’