Tathra Hotel removes its pokies

The owner of the historic hotel in Tathra has a vision; a hotel without gambling.

With no poker machines or TAB betting facilities, instead it will focus on dining, live music, accommodation and have a microbrewery.

Cliff Wallis, who bought the hotel with his wife Sayaka Mihara in October last year, has begun extensive renovations to the building and hopes to reopen a couple of months before Christmas. 

The bar and dining room will become one area, but there will be the ability to close off the dining space for functions. 

The area out the back will be turned into a picnic area, while a live performance space will go into the old bar to host a diverse range of original music. 

The old bistro will become rooms for accommodation and the microbrewery will go where the old poker machines once were for brewing to begin around August next year. 

Mr Wallis, who also owns The Sundeck Hotel in the Perisher Valley, was surprised of the amount of media attention he has been getting with his decision to remove gambling from the hotel – he has also been approached by the ABC, SBS and Channel 7. 

A hotel where you can gamble is not the sort of place he wants to run, and he was surprised to learn there was a total of 70 poker machines in Tathra, including 12 at his own hotel, when he took over ownership. 

“I’ve heard horror stories about people losing their inheritance on the pokies at Tathra,” he said. 

When he purchased the property, he said hotel brokers told him if he wanted to have a higher turnover he could create a “smoking solution”.

“This is when you create a room for gambling machines essentially outside so people can smoke in it, because gaming revenue goes up dramatically if people can smoke at the same time,” Mr Wallis said. 

“I could never do that – you’re harming people’s physical and financial heath.” 

The aim is to also move the smoking area off the veranda and onto the grass out the back of the hotel, as the demographics that the hotel attracts – retirees, tourists and families – are not usually smokers. 

Mr Wallis was not worried about the financial impacts the decision to remove the pokies will have, as the machines were left in last summer, but they did not generate a lot of business. 

He thought his hotel could earn more money with the 14 new rooms and nine budget rooms it will have as accommodation. 

“Time will tell, but we’re hoping to rely on traditional stuff hotels have done like accommodation, food and beverages,” Mr Wallis said.

“It would be a sad day if pubs had to rely on gambling to survive.”