Cobram’s Grand Central Hotel calls last drinks

By Jessica Ball

Closing time was called for the final time at Cobram's Grand Central Hotel on Sunday.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forced owner Nikki Katsaounis to make the heartbreaking decision to shut the Middle Pub’s doors for good.

It was not a decision the publican made lightly but the sums simply did not add up to keep trading.

“What do you do, I'm gutted, devastated,” Ms Katsaounis said fighting back tears.

“You're still paying the same amount of bills but you're not allowed to have as many people in here and to be having 20 for dinner or lunch or whatever and I can't see this ending anytime soon.

“I'm a pub, I'm not a drive-through coffee shop.”

It was only 18 months ago when Ms Katsaounis said realised her lifelong dream of owning a pub.

She put her heart and soul into renovating the more than 100-year-old building and improving the bistro service.

“It was always a dream to buy a pub,” she said.

“I've been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and I just loved it.

“I wish I would have had done a little bit more but that's not going to be.”

But her fondest memories are of the hardworking staff and the regulars’ banter.

“They treat me like family. That's what I'll miss the most,” Ms Katsaounis said.

“They're the best lot of guys, if anything happened they'd have your back.

“I can't thank them enough for coming in and giving us a go.

“Just a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart. I've made some great friends and I think that will continue no matter where I go and what I do.”

On a Friday night, the front bar is always packed with regulars and while last week the mood was somber, they shared memories of the pub over a pint.

Jenni Sorger said it was devastating to watch Ms Katsaounis walk away from her hard work.

“She took it on and she's put so much work into it,” she said.

“We all gave her a hard time when she got here and she gave it back and we've grown to love her.

“We're just going to miss her so much.

“Once this pub shuts, what do you have, one pub?”

A sign hanging above the bar reads ‘Enter strangers and leave as friends’ and that is exactly a feeling shared among patrons.

Possum was only 16 when he first snuck into the Middle Pub and has been drinking there Wednesday to Sunday every since.

He was sad to see the establishment close and said he wished the Moira Shire Council had done more keep the rates down during these tough times.

“Then she could have saved money and keep the pub open, that would have helped big time,” he said.