STEP into this small town’s local pub and you might be surprised by who is in charge.
Casie Baker is the new licensee at The Royal Hotel in Kew, south of Port Macquarie.
The 26-year-old, who took the helm at the pub in April, says she is thoroughly enjoying her new gig.
“I am still very new at being a licensee, but so far I love it,” Casie says. “A lot of people have been congratulating me when they realise I’m not just the manager, I’m also the licensee. They say it’s really good that the owners are giving me a go,” she says.
Born in Mudgee in the NSW central west, Casie grew up in Bathurst and now lives with her husband Ben and daughter Summer, 3, in Johns River.
She has worked at the pub for eight years, and sasys talking to the customers and hearing their stories is a great part of the job.
The Royal Hotel is in Nancy Bird Walton Drive, Kew, once a stretch of the Pacific Highway. Kew’s Pacific Highway bypass was completed in 2007.
Despite a mini-boom at the pub from an influx of construction workers during the building of the bypass, customers declined in the years after it was completed.
Less highway travellers stopped in the town, and the downturn took some adjustment.
But locals continued to frequent the pub, Casie says.
The building, which is more than a century old, holds great significance to the town.
“This pub just has so much history with the locals, and I love the atmosphere because of it,” Casie explains.
“Locking up the other night, some of the locals were here and they were telling me what they remember about the pub.
“They used to come here with their dads and drink sarsaparilla. It made me think that so many changes have happened over the years.”
The building once was occupied by Cobb and Co, a stagecoach company which played an important part in Australia’s transport and communication history.
It has retained its traditional feel, with modern additions such as flat-screen televisions.
Over the years, the layout of the pub has changed. Toilets were built inside and a bistro was added to the back.
Photos taken throughout its history are mounted on a wall near a wooden staircase inside.
“It has a lot of history here in Kew. If only these walls could talk,” Casie says.
Despite her appreciation for the town, Casie wasn’t so smitten when she arrived in Johns River with her mum as a 15-year-old.
But she always wanted to work in hospitality, she says.
“It was hard at first. It felt pretty remote and, at that age, you want to be out amongst it. But now I really like the convenience of a country town, having everything so close,” she says.
These days, Casie splits her time between work and her family.
“It is hard juggling work and motherhood, and I am very lucky to have family close by who look after Summer while I’m at work,” she says. “What I enjoy most about my job is the interaction with people. All sorts of people walk in the door, I have lots of funny stories from working here.”