Phil Greguke bought the hotel in 2006 and now, the retired former Holden worker of 22 years, is looking for a new adventure
Introduction – The quirkiest pub in the outback, the Mungerannie Hotel, is for sale
Ross Greenwood: Welcome back to Work Life Money going right around Australia. We know that many Australians are very hardy lot, that we can survive in incredibly adverse conditions, and also that the history of Australia is really quite something. But imagine now that you are living 17 hours drive north of Adelaide, you’re on the Birdsville Track, and you’re running a pub.
You’re 60 years old, and you sit there and go, “Well, how long can I keep this going?” Well, I tell you, that is the story of Phil Gregurke. Now, Phil, turning 60, he bought the pub out there at the Mungerannie Hotel, which has been going, I got to tell you, since about 1886. That’s how long there’s been a pub at that part of the world. You sit and think, well, 314 kilometers from Birdsville, 202 kilometers from Marree. It is just the only fuel stop between those two towns.
Well, I got to tell you, the pub is on the market right now. Because it seems that since having bought this business more that 10 years ago, Phil’s decided, maybe retirement might be a good idea, maybe having a few more people around him. I’m not sure, but let’s find out anyway. He’s on the line right now. Many thanks for your time, Phil.
Phil Gregurke: No worries.
Ross: Describe for me what life is like out there at Mungerannie right now.
Phil Gregurke : Very, very, hectic.
Ross: Plenty of people coming along the track?
Phil Gregurke : There’s a fair few. Yes, is probably the busiest time of our year.
Ross: Why so busy? Is it just simply as the conditions start to cool off a little bit during the autumn, and then going into the winter, a lot of people make their way to the track?
Phil Gregurke : Well, down south, you’re always hitting the cold. Up here, it’s 25 degrees, beautiful sunshine. I’m standing here in a pair of shorts and T-shirt on and having a cold beer.
Ross: Tell me, how many visitors do you reckon you gotten through the pub last year?
Phil Gregurke : Last year 200,000.
Ross: Really? 200,000 visitors?
Phil Gregurke : A minimum of 200,000. On an average year now, we probably see 150,000.
Ross: That’s an awful lot of people. You can’t remember all their names, surely.
Phil Gregurke : I remember a lot of faces.
Ross: Not bad like that I got to tell you. [chuckles] Just explain a little bit of the history of that pub. Because it is really much synonymous with the Birdsville Track. Of course, as you point out, every person who goes along a Birdsville track will stop at the Mungarennie pub.
Phil Gregurke : Well, we’re not 17 hours out of Adelaide, I can do it nine hours.
Ross: That’s because you going quick. [chuckles]
Phil Gregurke : No, it’s only 900 cases —
Ross: That’s all right, fair go, that’s okay.
Phil Gregurke : It was built 30 or 31 years ago by a group from Kalamunda, it is halfway from Birdsville. They went bust after five years because they were probably 30 years before their time. Then it was taken over by the station, they only lasted five years. Then taken over by a guy by the name of Mount Sampson, he only lasted five years, and John Hammond, who was was here for 10 years. He got out of it because, what I say is, he got too much for him. Because there’s just too many people coming through.
Ross: It’s amazing. It’s a business where you’ve got no shortage of customers coming through the door. Just explain the lifestyle to people, because people would imagine it’s incredibly isolated. As you point out, if you’ve got 150,000 to 200,000 people coming through your pub on an annual basis, there’s no shortage of company for you to keep, it’s not as though you will feel isolated in any way, shape or form.
Phil Gregurke : We don’t feel isolated at all out here. We’ve got internet, we’ve got phones, we’ve got communication any way we want. We are a little bit remote with some of our supplies. Probably the best thing about up here, everybody calls in, and everybody leaves.
Ross: [chuckles] That’s the other point, people actually leave as well. In terms of supplies, I’m presuming you’ve got big freight trucks coming through on a regular basis, so you can feed the people, there’s plenty to drink. As a result, at least people can come and make their way to your pub always know that there’s going to be something to eat, something to drink. They can fill up with petrol and keep themselves going.
Phil Gregurke : Yes, that’s always the case.
Ross: Do you get yourself isolated in regards to flood waters at all?
Phil Gregurke : Well, the beauty is, when it does get rained — when the track gets closed. That’s how relief on us. Because that’s our downtime, we get a chance to take a breath.
Ross: There’s not so many coming through. An interesting thing, just explain to me now, you’ve run the pub for more than 10 years now, almost 11/12 years. In terms of your own life going forward, is retirement the big word for you? What’s going on?
Phil Gregurke : I retired 19 years ago. I came out of retirement to do this. I’d like to retire and do what everybody else is doing, travel.
Ross: That’s not a bad thing to do. What had you done before you bought this pub?
Phil Gregurke : I worked in a factory for 22 years.
Ross: Why would you go and buy a pub in Mungerannie, of all places?
Phil Gregurke : Because I was stupid.
Ross: [laughs] I like it. You weren’t so stupid, because having all those people coming through the door, it quite clearly was a pretty good business if you could manage the number of people coming through.
Phil Gregurke : Well, when I first came up here, we only saw 75,000 people a year, which was quite manageable. Now, it’s doubled. It’s just got a little bit too big for me and the staff that we keep on board. Yes, this is just time to move on.
Ross: I love this. Tell me, if you are traveling, given the fact that a lot of other Australians who want to see Australia would come to the Birdsville Track and come to the Mungerannie Hotel, where will you go when you’re starting to travel in your retirement?
Phil Gregurke : I live in the middle of a desert, I’m heading for the coast.
Ross: [laughs] I think it’s lovely. Has the pub been your superannuation?
Phil Gregurke : I would say so, yes.
Ross: I think it’s a fantastic story, there’s no doubt.
Phil Gregurke : I don’t understand super as everybody else does.
Ross: All right. I can see the pub and the property are on the market for 1.2 million. Is there an agent who is looking after, or they just ring up the Mungerannie pub?
Phil Gregurke : Yes, in Port Augusta.
Ross: Port Augusta. Whereabouts is it?
Phil Gregurke : Ray White.
Ross: Ray White Port Augusta looking after that. Well, there you go. Anybody with your super, you want a different lifestyle and a different way to invest? Well, you can take, in fact, a lead from Phil Gregurke, the Mungerennie Pub on the Birdsville Track. It would be a totally different lifestyle. You got to put up with a bit of vermin on occasion there’s a few flies out there from time to time, I understand.
Phil Gregurke : There’s a few flies, a few ants.
Ross: What about the snakes on the golf course?
Phil Gregurke : The golf course. That’s a four-hole golf course now.
Phil Gregurke : The race has got flooded out then. We had a few people stuck here. They went out and made another three more holes.
Ross: That’s hilarious. I just love the whole story about it. I’ve got to say, Phil, thank you so much for your time on the program today. We wish you well in your retirement, and we trust in the meantime that a few travelers come by and say good day to you at the Mungerannie Hotel.
Phil Gregurke : No worries, not a problem.
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