Outback Queensland’s Stonehenge Hotel to stay open despite significant storm damage

The owners of a beloved outback Queensland pub say they will keep their doors open after a violent storm tore through the building, causing severe damage.

School mates Tom Auriac and Grant Champion bought the Stonehenge Hotel in the town of 50 people over a year ago, after a night on the beers and an interest-free loan.

Wild weather tore through Stonehenge on Sunday, ripping the roof off the pub and flooding the kitchen.

The Bureau of Meteorology recorded wind gusts of up to 96 kilometers per hour in the region.

“It was a bit of a sh*t storm to say the least,” Mr Auriac said.

“There’s not too much I could do than really laugh.”

Wild weather tore off the pub’s roof and flooded the kitchen.(Supplied: Tom Auriac)

Both publicans were out of town when the storm hit, but said the damage was disastrous.

“The whole left wing roof was ripped off and shot over the backyard…and some tin went about 50 meters onto the road,” Mr Auriac said.

“I’m glad no one was walking around at the time, it would have cut them in half, which would have been a bit ordinary.”

A team of volunteers from Longreach traveled to the tiny town on Monday to help with repairs before another storm rolled in.

“We had to use what we had around town to keep the rain out, which hit us about half an hour after we put the last sheet on,” Mr Auriac said.

“It’s going to be a work in progress, but we’ll tackle it as it comes.”

Insurance cost a barrier

The Stonehenge Hotel is the only business in the remote town and operates as the motel caravan park, fuel station, post office and grocery store.

It is also the point of contact for the Royal Flying Doctor Service during emergencies.

Both owners said they had faced a fair share of challenges since taking over the pub 12 months ago, but the storm damage was the biggest blow so far.

Damaged roof on building
A fundraising campaign is underway to help pay for the damage.(Supplied: Tom Auriac)

About 40 per cent of the building sustained damage.

“We’ve lost a bit of stock from our cold room that was out for about 12 hours…the ceiling will have to be replaced and the walls need repairing,” Mr Auriac said.

The exorbitant cost of asset insurance meant the pub was largely uninsured, meaning renovations will be paid for out of pocket.

Outback pubs across the country have reported being denied insurance or offered inflated prices of up to $70,000 per year due to their builds and locations.

Two men standing behind the bar
Tom Auriac and Grant Champion say they will be paying for the repairs.(ABC Western Qld: Victoria Pengilley)

“By the time you go and pay for hotel insurance in a small country town… there’s really not much left over,” Mr Auriac said.

“It’s a risk you’ve got to take and for us, it didn’t pay off unfortunately.”

A fundraising campaign has been started, but Mr Auriac said the pub would still be serving up cold ones for any weary travelers who walked through the doors.

“We won’t be closing…you can still get a feed, a cold beer and somewhere to sleep,” he said.

With the cost of diesel at the moment, it’s just not viable to drive an hour and a half to get a carton of beer or a steak burger.

“[The pub] is a lifeline.”


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