By SARAH HUDSON
The Weekly Times, April 16th, 2014
THE Omeo Highway, between Albury and Bairnsdale, is one of Victoria’s oldest and most spectacular roads.
Yet, up until February, a large chunk was still gravel.
So when the final bitumen was recently laid, the Mitta Mitta community in North East Victoria, celebrated — and none more so than the owners of the Mitta Pub.
“The opening will open up this whole area,” says Tom Simpson, who — with wife, Sally — manages and part-owns the pub.
“Mitta is a bit of a sleeping giant. It offers so much, there’s so many activities available but it’s just not known and hasn’t been commercialised.”
The Simpsons are hoping to enliven the town, together with a consortium of six other owners from around the area who joined together to buy and modernise not only the 130-year-old pub (originally called the Laurel Hotel), and its accommodation, but also the Mitta general store.
It is, jokes Tom, effectively a monopoly.
Since the group took over in May 2012 they have revitalised the community — 50 minutes southeast of Wodonga, which has its roots in gold mining and logging — with hundreds of visitors already arriving most weekends.
They come to see the fully renovated pub, which incorporates rustic relics from around the district into its design.
Old metal brick kiln shingles line the bar and a disc seeder hangs above, while an old Bedford ute chopped in half is on the bar and old washing machine drums have been used as light fittings.
Tom says their own vegetable patch supplies the kitchen, while as much food and drink as possible is sourced locally.
The seven owners each bring an area of expertise:, Wagyu farmer and doctor Scott Giltrap supplying the beef, for instance. As for Tom, he brings experience in hotel management, and an adventurous spirit.
The 32-year-old grew up in the UK, where from ages 12 to 20 he represented England in badminton, winning the French and Swiss opens at 18.
Tom says he loves where he lives now.
“The community is great and I’m in the mountains biking and hiking and snowing. It’s God’s country.”