TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN STORIES give you an insight into many of the local businesses and characters you will find when you Escape to Tamborine Mountain.
THE BEARDED DRAGON
THE PUB IS THE HUB – BEARDED DRAGON TAMBORINE
An interview with the manager of the Bearded Dragon, Tamborine’s iconic watering hole.
by Kyle Hitchmough
The Bearded Dragon Hotel and Tavern has been a staple of Tamborine Village for more than 20 years. An utterly unique establishment, a well-known destination with a rustic, welcoming atmosphere and a host of quirky attractions like reptile shows, a petting zoo, and cane toad racing. Its staunch opposition of pokies and keno have made it the beating heart of the community. I spoke with Monique Gregory, manager of the tavern since its inception, to get her opinion on this local landmark.
What was the inspiration behind a place like this?
The owners were from a long line of different country pubs and we saw the demise of the pub industry when they introduced draw poker machines. We had been in the UK and had a lot of influence from pubs we’d worked in over there. It was a cow paddock when we started, there was nothing here, and people were shocked to think that there would be enough of a population in this area to even warrant a pub.
We’re very driven to make Tamborine special. It had to have its own identity and become iconic. We wanted an Australian vibe and built the pub as a family from the ground up.
So, you’ve been here from the beginning?
Yes. The property was owned by the family 10 or so years before that. The “Bearded Dragon” came specifically from wanting an iconic name, and when we cleared the property there were loads of water dragons and different lizards, which are still around today. So “Bearded Dragon” just had that ring to it and gave us a really cool logo as well.
Obviously, a massive part of the Bearded Dragon’s identity is its stance against gambling attractions, apart from the cane toad races which are done for charity. What more can you tell us about that?
We’re not anti-gambling. We’re anti-pokies, and anti-gambling in pubs because we believe pubs should be a hub where families come to eat and drink. A social hub. So those other attractions and activities morphed. We did cane toad racing from the very first week because we were different and quirky. It was a good way for us to link back to the local community through the charities without having the gambling.
Spending time as a family is really bonding. Even our staff here applied to work for us because they have fond memories of doing a toad race, or seeing the alpacas, and having those good times with their families. So that’s really cool for us, that just fills me with joy to think that we go way back to when they’re young children.
Who would you say is more of your clientele? Is it mostly locals, or do you get more tourists?
People see us and think we’ve got a lot of people coming from overseas, that’s not really our clientele. It’s more local—obviously people bring their visiting relatives and friends here, because we are a place that they like to showcase and have incredible views—and you know, you don’t just get a pub in a paddock that’s sitting on 100 acres that close to the Gold Coast or Brisbane.
To me, a local is anyone who visits the Bearded Dragon more than once. That’s a local.
Ultimately, what would you say the Bearded Dragon does for Tamborine?
I think we market the area pretty effectively. We’ve always had the Tamborine tag, and we want to keep Tamborine special. We’ve done a lot of work getting the Village on the map. We make lots of different donations. The Rural Fire Brigade is one of our main recipients and has been for over 20 years. I remember way back in the day we made the first big contribution they had to getting a fire truck. There are other charities that come up but we stick away from the ones that have money coming from the gambling fund, and also sporting groups that have their own incomes so we focus on what’s going to really contribute to the community, and that is the Rural Fire Brigade, and children’s charities. The pony club next door is great, they’re a good community-based organisation as well.
I would say the biggest thing, over the years, is establishing Tamborine as a special place. That’s what we continue to do, and sometimes it’s not a great financial decision as we’re not a chain, we’re not a supermarket, we are individual and unique. I think it’s great for the area, and most people who live in this area are unique and special too.
What is the core aspect it brings to the community?
The pub is the hub, that was something that was really important to us. It’s where you meet your girlfriends, it’s where you get your first job as a teenager, it’s where you go down and find out whether there’s any local work going, that’s what a pub is about. We have that art of conversation in a pub like this, so it keeps the community linked together. In some other places, if people are too busy playing on the poker machines, it doesn’t become the hub anymore.
We aren’t the pub that everyone expects to go to, but we are the pub that people went to 30 years ago, when there was no gaming, no gambling. We’re old-school.
2-22 Tamborine Mountain Rd, Tamborine QLD 4270
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