For the 250 residents of Warrell Creek, the closest pub is 15 minutes’ drive away in Macksville, and the bottle shop is a further 20 minutes south.
So Gus Williams, 72, decided to open a tavern in his front yard to quench the thirst of locals in the New South Wales mid-north coast town.
Gus’s tavern, nestled on the side of the Pacific Highway between the road and the train line, spills out from his shed into his front yard, with picnic benches, bar mats, ashtrays and two friendly guard dogs.
Inside, the tavern is decorated with musical instruments, microphone stands, a retro jukebox, a pool table and the all-important beer fridge.
The only catch — it’s BYO
Despite the perfect pub decor, Gus does not hold a liquor licence.
He insists the sign started as a joke among his friends and he did not expect passers-by to catch on.
“We have a lot of fun at the tavern. I have a band that plays regularly. We have a few beers and we get a heap of people stopping by,” Gus said.
He said he regularly had weary travellers pull off the highway in the hope of a beer.
“We don’t have a licence, so it’s only bring your own beer, which can confuse people who stop in … but sometimes I’ll shout them one from my own fridge,” he said.
“Most folk pull into the street and just turn around, unsure of what’s happening over my fence, but there’s always something happening here.”
Gus’s wife of 43 years passed away last year, and he said the Warrell Creek Tavern sign had since provided an opportunity for him to meet new people.
“I only retired about two years ago, and having the tavern has allowed me to really enjoy my life now,” he said.
“I’m not really too big on the beers but I love my rugby league. I like having people hanging around having a laugh and sharing stories.
“I keep that sign out saying ‘Free Beer Tomorrow’ full knowing that tomorrow will never come, but the people still do.”
Visitors from all walks of life
Gus said most of the regular patrons to his tavern were family, his neighbour and members of the Warrell Creek Tavern band, but he had had some unexpected visitors pull into his driveway.
“We had a bloke that pulled up once and he walked in to check the place out and he took up a place at the piano inside,” he said.
“When I asked how he knew how to play, he told me he used to tour with Jon English.
“Apparently he now lives somewhere locally, and we have asked him to come back again and play some country tunes with our band.”
Gus’s neighbour Bluey said the tavern did have one fundamental rule.
“If you can play an instrument, you have to have a strum before you can leave,” he said.