Australia’s original ‘pub with no beer’ in North QLD listed for sale – with beer included
Australia’s original “Pub with No Beer” has been listed for sale for the first time in 50 years.
Located in Ingham, north of Townsville, the iconic Lee’s Hotel, known as the “original pub with no beer”, is being sold freehold for $3.485 million, and is being marketed by Tourism Brokers.
Made famous by country singer Slim Dusty’s Aussie classic titled A Pub With No Beer, Lee’s Hotel is recognised as the official home of the song after it was based on a poem of the same name written by Ingham sugarcane farmer Dan Sheahan at the Day Dawn Hotel, which is now known as Lee’s Hotel.
The story goes that the hotel was drunk dry by thirsty American serviceman during the Second World War, and when Sheahan rode his horse into town for a beer the next day, he discovered there was not a drop of liquid amber left.
The farmer had a glass of wine instead, and wrote the poem.
Since then, the hotel has become an Aussie icon, and has been a stopping point for thirsty travellers ever since.
Agent Antonio Curulli has confirmed that the hotel will be sold with all of its remaining stock – and yes, that includes the beer.
“It has plenty of beer now, and if you buy it, you get the beer as well. It is being sold plus stock,” he said.
But it is not just the iconic hotel that is up for grabs, with a steakhouse, beer garden, gaming room, 20 motel rooms with ensuites, a bar and bistro, retail shops and the possibility for a new bottle shop, also part of the sale.
“It was a boutique hotel back in its day, with space for ballroom dancing,” Mr Curulli said. “That area was converted into a popular steakhouse.”
The current leasehold owner is Glenn Connell, who has worked in pubs and hotels since he was 13 years old.
Mr Connell, who is passionate about the hotel’s history, has transformed how the hotel has operated, and painted “everything three times during COVID”.
He also installed the Canecutters Bar in honour of the hardworking canecutters of yesteryear.
Mr Curulli said many of those canecutters, who slashed by hand and were the original barflies, were now in their 70s and 80s, with commercial harvesters now the norm on the iconic sugarcane fields in the region.
“It is called the Canecutters Bar to acknowledge the hard work they did,” he said.
“Slim came through the area back then, saw the poem (by Sheahan) and was inspired to write the song, even acknowledging it in his autobiography.
Slim Dusty died at his home in New South Wales in 2003, having accumulated a wide range of awards and accolades during his extensive music career.
As for the current owners of the freehold, Mr Curulli laughed.
“They were drinking beer in the fake pub with no beer in New South Wales when they found out the truth and decided to buy the original,” he said.
And there seems to already be plenty of interest in the Queensland icon, with Mr Curulli fielding inquiries from buyers in the aviation sector in Cairns, and buyers in New South Wales and Victoria.
“I think whoever buys it will just have a real nostalgia for Australia,” he said.
The freehold property has a 15 per cent return on investment and is surrounded by a strong performing tourism, mining and agricultural region.
“The pub which now has plenty of beer, accommodation and three retail shops, provides an excellent opportunity to invest in a piece of Australian history and secure a high yielding return on one’s investment,” the listing said.
Mr Connell said he was leaving the icon with plans for another project in North Queensland.
He said he was happy with how the hotel was functioning, after making sure every space brought in a dollar.
“And the restaurant, we repositioned that as the Herbert Valley Steakhouse and that is now a finalist in the best regional restaurant category in the Queensland Hotel’s Association Award of Excellence,” he said.
Mr Connell said the hotel was regularly visited by tourists keen to have a coldie at the ‘pub with no beer’, and was regularly photographed by people passing by.
“It is an iconic Queensland pub and it will be around a long time,” he said.
“Dan’s poem was essentially TripAdvisor back in the day. People are very passionate about its history.”