A NSW publican is taking a cue from the Whitlams’ 2000 Hottest 100-topping single and blowing up the pokies to replace them with live music. Cliff Wallis, a veteran of the industry, wants to bring about a revolution at the Tathra Hotel.

Wallis spent years running the Manly Vale Hotel, where bands like INXS first got their start, and has spent the past 25 years operating the Sundeck Hotel in the Perisher Valley, saving the venue from receivership.

Now, as ABC News reports, Wallis is looking to change things in the town of Tathra, which remarkably has 70 poker machines for a population of less than 2,000 people, with many residents gripped by an addiction to the machines.

“Poker machines have destroyed hotels in many respects,” Wallis told ABC News. “People are relying on poker machines and forgetting about the traditional food and beverages they’re offering. Some hotels have become primarily poker machine venues, and they do best in the lowest socio-economic areas.”

Half the money Wallis forked over for the Tathra Hotel went to purchasing licenses for its 12 pokies machines, but he’s planning on selling the licenses and using that money to renovate the venue into a three-and-a-half star hotel with live music.

Despite some objections from the hotel’s regulars (including some who’ve decided to boycott the venue), Wallis said he’s already seeing changes in the clientele, observing more “retired people, professionals, and more women” coming in.

The veteran publican said he’s not doing it for the money, but for the challenge. “I’m doing it for the challenge of whether I can turn that place around,” he said. “I want it to be a place that the community is proud of, and if they are proud of it, it will be successful.”

Write a Letter to the Editor