Breathing new life into the old girl

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Revamp underway for historic Hotel Thangool

By Jen Gourley

Oh, the stories this hotel could tell if the old walls and creaky floors could talk. The tall stories swapped between mates, the jokes shared, and the sound of thousands of beer glasses plonked down on the bar… This historic pub has been part of Thangool history for 90 years.

Originally known as the Criterion Hotel when it was built in Banana, the building was relocated to Thangool in 1932, and became known as Hotel Thangool.

The original licensee was Kitty Shean, and she and her sister Emmie ran the pub. People today still have stories to tell about Kitty and the hotel, but Thangool resident Kath Moller knows more than your average pub goer. Kitty Shean was her auntie, Emmie was her mum, and the hotel was Kath’s childhood home.

The current Hotel Thangool was an extension added on to the original hotel back in 1939, recalled Kath. With accommodation up the top, the downstairs part was home to various businesses over the years.

“There was a solicitor and I think an electrical store man that used to fix wireless sets and then over the years a man had a barber shop there and a man did leather work there, you know, fixing saddles and that,” Kath said.

Next to the hotel was a beautiful picture theatre, and then when TV became popular and movies less so, an ice-skating rink took its place.

The movie theatre is no more and so is the original hotel building, but the extension that was erected during World War II is still standing.

And it’s that old building that’s currently receiving some much-needed tender loving care from the new licensees, Wayne Unsworth and Kim Frost.

Yes, Hotel Thangool is under new management. Owners Matho and Liz Matheson are delighted to have Wayne and Kim on board and the four of them have exciting plans.

“We’re going to give the pub a facelift and a renovation and get it back up and going again,” Matho said. “The whole pub’s getting painted and it’s going to have some street appeal. That’s probably the biggest thing, it’s actually going to look inviting. We’ll get this place presentable and operational again with the right look and feel.

“We want it to have a country feel about the place. It’s not going to be pretentious – it’s going to be a good, old, country pub.”

Bringing good, old, country pubs back to life is in Matho and Liz’s blood. It’s what they do and what they love. For the owners of the popular Biloela Hotel, this latest pub project will be their fifth renovation.

“We’re passionate about these old pubs and getting them up and going,” Matho said.  “I think they’re an institution, they’re good things to have in the community.

“And that is a big thing too with Wayne and Kim. They’re very family-oriented people. And that’s what we want this pub to be. It’s going to be very family-orientated and community friendly.”

Wayne and Kim have three children – Keara, 14, Dawson, 2, and Lacey, 4, who has started Prep at Thangool State School this year and is absolutely loving it.

Kim, who is from Springsure and has family who live locally, will be running the bar and Wayne will be running the kitchen.

“We’ll be serving lunch and dinner – good pub grub,” Wayne said.

“The main bar is going to get a good facelift. The bistro’s going to get a little bit of a facelift because it was previously done. We’re just going bring it all back to the 21st century while keeping the old bones in place.

“It’s got a good history, so everything we do, we are trying to keep to the era as much as we can. It’s an old pub with a history that we do want to keep and then add to.”

Some of the planned additions include:

  • A roof extension off the side of the building that will provide shade for an inviting beer garden, and
  • A fully fenced, outdoor playground with soft-fall matting for the kids.

Matho and Liz have a lot of faith in the new licensees.

“They’re great people and they’ve got hospitality experience and we’re all about giving people opportunities as well,” Matho said. “I wish I’d had an opportunity like this when I was as young as these guys. They’re passionate about what they’re doing. And yeah, we think they’re a couple of go-getters.

“We’re on the same page with a lot of stuff – they’re very hands on. Even straight off, they were on the tools. On the first day Wayne was out here getting on the roof with me looking at this and looking at that. So, being hands on and genuine people is important to us. That’s our DNA. That’s how we like to operate and how we conduct ourselves and these guys conduct themselves in that fashion too, which is appealing to us.”

The plans for Hotel Thangool were announced only last weekend but immediately received an enthusiastic response from the local community.

“I’ve been getting hit ups since Sunday about it,” Liz said. “It’s been going off and we’ve got a great new couple going in.”

“Consistency will be a thing too,” Matho said. “There will be consistency and some honesty and some integrity with the way the hotel’s conducted. People want to able to know they can pull up here on a Wednesday afternoon and get a cold beer, a decent meal and a good conversation. That’s the whole environment too. The atmosphere will be nice in here.

“I understand the history to this place and the legacies that come with it, and we take them very personally. I believe that pubs do have an identity, you know, they have a bit of a personality, there’s something about them. I believe this pub’s still got some stories to tell yet.”

  • Hotel Thangool will be ready to open its doors to the public in a few weeks.
Hotel Thangool is currently undergoing renovations and will be open in a few weeks.
Hotel Thangool was first known as the Criterion Hotel. The original building is pictured here at its first home in Banana.
Image supplied by Jynette Brumpton
The original hotel after it was relocated to Thangool.
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