Publican at popular pub leaves town owing thousands
FURIOUS business owners in a regional Queensland town have been left out-of-pocket after the manager of its popular pub and local chamber of commerce secretary moved away as COVID-19 started to take hold.
Andrew Wyeth, a third-generation publican, operated the Commercial Hotel at Home Hill south of Ayr since last year using his company WJ Hospitality.
The hospitality company was put into liquidation in June owing $60,800 to 55 creditors, a liquidator's report on the company has revealed.
Many of the businesses in Home Hill, which has a population of 2954 people, are listed as creditors.
Mr Wyeth came to the small town last year and became secretary of the Home Hill Chamber of Commerce.
He took on the lease to open and operate the Commercial Hotel, which is owned by ex-serviceman Craig McGrath.
Mr McGrath said the former manager "did a runner" from Home Hill about three months ago.
"There's a lot of people looking for him," he said.
Watsons Butchery, Scuderi Signs and Home Hill Engineering Works are among 33 local creditors owed money.
Mr McGrath said Mr Wyeth owed money to many of the region's businesses and had trashed the Commercial Hotel's name.
"What he's done to our business, it's just despicable," he said.
Mr Wyeth, who could not be reached for comment, operated his first pub at the age of 23 and - at 40 - had plans to reinvigorate Home Hill.
"There's a lot of cosmetic work that needs to be done to the hotel and we will undertake that work, obviously with the approval of the landlord but that comes at our cost," he told theTownsville Bulletin in September
"We want to bring events to Home Hill, in a year's time or 18 months time we want to close (the street) down and have a festival in that street and if we can involve other businesses in the area.
"It's why I became involved in the Chamber of Commerce, I want to see this town, and it's to my benefit that it does come back."
Mr Wyeth also created the town's own-branded lager before WJ Hospitality was put under the control of liquidator Michael Caspaney of Menzies Advisory.
Mr Caspaney said Mr Wyeth, the company's sole director, was assisting his investigations.
"He's required to do that and so far he's providing everything that we need," Mr Caspaney said.
A statutory report will be handed to creditors within three months.
Back at Home Hill, Commercial Hotel's 32-room accommodation is booked out until March next year, but Mr McGrath is waiting for tourists to come from down south before he reopens the pub.
"If the borders are open I've got another 5000 cars going past me, the highway is dead right now," he said.
"We're going to come out the other side of coronavirus than a lot better position than I was going into it though."
Originally published as Publican at popular watering hole leaves town owing thousands