Great Western Hotel owners Colin and Vicki Bowden have announced they will be walking away from the business after crushing COVID-19 restriction pressures
Great Western Hotel owners Colin and Vicki Bowden have announced they will be walking away from the business after crushing COVID-19 restriction pressures

Pandemic closes the much-loved Great Western Hotel

"You should see it! They have bull riding inside the pub!"

If you're reading this, you've no doubt said something to this effect to someone or had this said to you.

Yesterday morning, in an announcement that would have sent a shiver down the spines of many - The Great Western Hotel announced that it had done its dash.

Established in 1862, the hotel has hosted some of the world's greatest talents, from bands to bull riders, but it has close its saloon doors for the last time.

In a statement, owners Colin and Vickie Bowden, said due to COVID-19 the icnoic Rocky pub would not reopen.

Today Show host Karl Stefanovic goes face to face with a bull at the Great Western Hotel
Today Show host Karl Stefanovic goes face to face with a bull at the Great Western Hotel

"The Great Western Hotel is an iconic local tourist destination which is heavily dependent on overseas and interstate visitors," the pair wrote.

"The social distancing restrictions, border closures and travel restrictions have had a major impact on the Hotel.

"The Great Western is also reliant on major rodeos and music events both of which it is uncertain when they can resume."

They said the inclusion of the GWH in the Safe Night Precinct also had a negative impact.

The pair send out a heartfelt thanks to general manager and local identity, Denis Cox, as well as all of the other staff that made the institution what it was. "We would personally like to thank our general manager, Denis Cox, who has done an outstanding job over the past 18 months and to all our hard-working staff - we consider you all family," they said.

"We would also like to thank our stakeholders - the competitors, sponsors and suppliers whom made a visit to the Great Western Hotel such a memorable experience.

"We apologise to our locals."

The Morning Builletin reports on the sale of the Great Western Hotel by Isabel Ryan to George Lockwood in June 1953
The Morning Builletin reports on the sale of the Great Western Hotel by Isabel Ryan to George Lockwood in June 1953

Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carrol said the iconic venue had been a key component of the Beef Capital for decades and a 'must see' for interstate and international visitors.

"Together with being a curriculum aligned training ground which sees students from St Brendan's College in Yeppoon break the barriers and master a bull for eight seconds," she said.

"We are truly saddened to see the doors close on this iconic tourism operator, which is our region's first COVID casualty and a big one at that."

One of those St Brendan's boys to break the barrier was Aaron Kleier who got his start on the famous semi-indoor rodeo ring and is now an international bull riding sensation having spent the months pre-COVID taking on the world's best in US.

Aaron Kleier on Tenacious at the PBR bull riding event at the Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton. Chris Ison ROK210517crodeo1
Aaron Kleier on Tenacious at the PBR bull riding event at the Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton. Chris Ison ROK210517crodeo1

Euphoria flowed as The Morning Bulletin asked its readers for their fondest GWH memories, with tales of eight second rides and favourite gigs.

"So fun seeing so many acts coming to the Great Western Hotel - Keith Urban, Joe Nichols, Lee Kernaghan, Mandy Moore have come through there," Ed Sutherland.

"My son's first job was at the GWH back when Lee Kernaghan owned it," Karen Dixon said.

"Santa riding a bull at the Christmas rodeo in 2015 or 2016. My kids still talk about it every Christmas!" Karen Ayoub said.

Local leaders also expressed their sadness, along with fond memories.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said she was incredibly saddened.

"I have always loved going to the Great Western for a delicious steak. It is a great place to take visitors from out of town. I have always enjoyed the bull riding, although I never had a go myself," she said.

Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke said he would miss the public bar.

"I've been to many a rodeo at the Great Western and caught up with friends for a beer in the public bar many times, but my favourite memory is kicking off the 2018 Accessible Pub Crawl with Des Ryan there. Always a great atmosphere.

The Bowdens held hope one of Rockhampton's favorited pubs find life again.

They have welcomed expressions of interest to purchase or lease the Great Western Hotel.


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