Community welcomes new venue

The newly built Farmer's Arms Hotel in Junortoun opened its doors to guests for the first time on Saturday night.

There was no question of support from the local community as 140 people flocked to the Christmas in July event to taste, sip, chat and enjoy their new community venue. 

Owners Rob and Jill Charlton bought the land and licence after the original site burnt down in an arson attack in 2009.

Five years later, after a lengthy bureaucratic struggle and seven months of construction a new venue stands in its place.

The building's red brick exterior resembles a residential home, different from a typical pub.

The interior is homely with curtains, artwork, tables and chairs, fireplace and lighting creating the feeling of being in a friend's dining room.

There's also a plan to have a vegetable patch out the back. 

The Charltons want the venue to become a vibrant gathering place.

They hope the new building will become a "drop-in place" for local residents and their friends and families.

"It's a growing community," Mrs Charlton said. "You don't meet your neighbours unless you go out."

Jill Charlton said she and her husband used to be regulars at the old Farmer's Arms Hotel before it was destroyed.

"We just wanted to put it back," Mrs Charlton said.

She said it had been a long seven months since construction of the new venue began in December 2013. 

The wet weather during June and July had put back their completion date.

Rob Charlton said Saturday's night's Christmas in July event organised by the Junortoun Community Action Group gave them the deadline to "get things done".

"It's a huge achievement - a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into the last five years," son-in-law Trev Birks said.

Mr Birks said the venue had a fantastic chef and a good selection of local beers and wines.

He said the kitchen could cater for gluten-free needs with a "whole different fryer" for gluten-free food.

Junortoun Community Action Group president Ian Ross said Saturday night's event was so popular they had to "knock people back". 

Event organiser Tom Devlin said the community was keen to have a social hub, something which it had lacked for a long time.

Residents' approval of the venue was expressed with raucous applause when Mr Devlin stepped onto a small stage to kick-start the evening: "Welcome to the new Farmer's Arms Hotel". 

Mrs Charlton said she was grateful for the staff and tradesman who had all gone beyond their job descriptions, working on weekends and doing extra tasks to get the venue ready.

The Farmer's Arms Hotel will open to the public soon. Opening hours will be Sunday to Thursday 11am to 11pm, and Friday to Saturday 11am to midnight.


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