Best pubs in Queensland: The Royal treatment
GYMPIE during its goldfields heyday had no fewer than 157 licensed premises.
The Royal Hotel was one of the very first hotels established in Gympie, in 1868, and it still stands out today as a gem in the region. Next year it will celebrate 150 years serving the community.
It was known as the Exchange Hotel and Varieties Theatre when built. The then newly established local paper, The Gympie Times, ran an advertisement that year extolling the virtues of the venue where "every comfort and delight” could be found.
In the Gympie Mining Handbook, published in 1887, A Leek wrote the Royal's theatre and dancing room, built behind the hotel, "was crowded with audience pretty well every evening”.
"If there were any entertainers, the audience sat and drank and smoked in calm enjoyment, but the evenings were generally passed in the festive dance ... the spirited proprietors engaged an extra number of waitresses who could on occasion dance with the diggers as long as the libations consumed were of respectable value,” the author wrote.
"There was a fiddle and piano for band, and there was a bar also, which almost goes without saying.” Those early glory days came to an end in 1875 after a cyclone destroyed part of the theatre and floods submerged most of the town.
In 1882, architect Hugo Durietz designed a two-storey timber building for the central spot. It officially opened as the Varieties Hotel and Theatre, once again becoming the place that drew crowds looking for light entertainment.
The hotel became the Royal Hotel in 1885, then the Theatre Royal in 1910. Tragedy struck again in 1935, when the building was razed to the ground.
The Gympie Times reported the disaster: "There was removed from Gympie a building which had been the scene of many social and political events, which had its historic interest and for the few remaining pioneers, its cherished associations.”
After Bulimba Brewery bought the site in 1938, the newly built Royal Hotel, with an elegant Art Deco facade, opened its doors to eager patrons. It is the iconic building that stands today and, aside from recent extensive interior renovations, has remained relatively unchanged.
The Royal is one of the first businesses to go under water when Gympie floods (roughly one or two a decade), but the community rallies around helping owner Stacey Lowe and her partner Linc Phelps maintain their resilience when the inevitable happens.
Each time the muddy waters have subsided, the doors have opened to customers.
Located in the heart of the former gold rush town, The Royal is and has consistently been a popular spot for dining and entertainment for a number of years.
"Someone said to me ... when you walk in here it's like a big, warm hug. That's how I want it to feel,” Ms Lowe said.
She is founder of Gympie's Liquor Industry Action Group and together with other licensed premised, works towards making Gympie nights safe by banning known trouble-makers and networking issues.
Ms Lowe and Mr Phelps are also fierce advocates for a fair go and have featured nationally in the media after Stacey encouraged breast feeding mothers, via social media, to use The Royal's lounge, providing them with free cups of coffee or soft drink while they did so.
A social media post, advising The Royal would not accept intolerant behaviour from any customers toward one another, reached more than 585,000 people, garnered more than 11,000 likes and has been shared more than 3000 times.