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Community spirit sees rundown club turned into pristine pub with state-of-the-art bowling green

Jamie McNamara, Dale McNamara, and Daniel Storey at Miller Park Hotel.

When a 95 year-old Branxton woman came up to McNamara Hotel Group owner Dale McNamara distraught that her local bowling club and green were set to be torn down, it was more than he could take.

So, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, McNamara, a fifth-generation Singleton local who owns a number of Hunter pubs along with other mining, racing, and agricultural interests, purchased the dilapidated and unlicensed empty venue determined to build his community a great pub complete with a state-of-the-art bowling green.

“When we acquired the venue and came in there was nothing left inside,” he said.

“Everything that could have been taken out had been, the bowling green was in bad shape and the previous liquor license was no longer attached to the venue. The project was a large undertaking to put it lightly.”

But for McNamara, the now named Miller Park Hotel is more than an addition to his business portfolio; it is a labour of love.

“Every Saturday afternoon for as long as I can remember the original Miller Park Sport and Recreation Club was my local,” he said.

“It was where I went to de-stress from work and spend time with mates. When it closed down there were a lot of Saturday afternoons that I drove some of the guys into Greta myself. A few of them are in their 90s and it was an important social outlet for them. To have it taken away was a huge loss.

“The worst part though, was seeing the locals treated in a way that I cannot describe as anything but disgusting. There was no effort by the previous owners to try and fix what was wrong and no engagement with the community. In fact, some of the older ladies came down to bowl one day and found the doors locked. That’s how they found out the club had closed for good. That kind of thing is just not okay with me.”

And like most dreams, this one required a major leap of faith on the part of McNamara.

Image courtesy of Branxton Greta Vineyards News.

And like most dreams, this one required a major leap of faith on the part of McNamara.

In order to install a pristine, championship-style, synthetic bowling green unrivalled by almost any in NSW, he had to get to work long before his application for a liquor license from the NSW Department of Liquor and Gaming was approved.

“It was always going to be a challenge because before it closed the venue had been poorly run and suffered financial losses for three consecutive years,” he said.

“But I knew what this community deserved. I also knew it would take six months for the green to be installed at a cost of about $400,000 but if we wanted it ready when the pub opened, we had to move ahead and get it done.”