By Derek Schlennstedt
Locals have formed a Gembrook Pub Working Group to try to bring a pub back to the town.
The group has been established under the auspice of the Gembrook Community Group to see what can be done to ensure that a pub is rebuilt in Gembrook.
Members have already been undertaking fund-raising efforts to buy and rebuild the Ranges Hotel, which burnt down in September last year.
Efforts have so far included a $20 minimum sausage sizzle on Sunday 7 July.
Gembrook Pub Working Group committee member Garry McGough, who is also the Eastern Dandenong Ranges Association (EDRA) chairman for business and tourism, said the fund-raiser brought in a little over $1000.
“We only had a day’s notice as we announced it on Friday and we had 40 people come and donate over $1000,” he said.
“It wasn’t about the sausage, it was all about community interest.
“Gembrook has a huge, strong community with passionate love for their town and they really care.”
According to the fund-raising poster for the sausage sizzle, all funds would go to initial plans and concept drawings for a new pub.
Mr McGough said phone numbers had been taken and that if the funds were not used, those who had donated would be refunded or given the chance to redirect the cash toward something else for the town.
“The $1005 dollars I’m going to give to our treasurer of the Gembrook Community Group and it will be deposited into the group’s bank account,” he said.
“If the money is not spent it will be offered back to the donors, as we have all their phone numbers.
“If we do spend it and don’t use all of it, it will be offered back on a percentage basis, or if we use it for other community purposes such as looking at getting decent toilets.
“We could do with some modern amenities and there are things we can put it towards, but that’s up to the donors, as we’re not going to hang onto the money if they want their money back.”
A GoFundMe has also been setup which states that “if the money is not raised in time all will be refunded”.
The Mail contacted the GoFundMe creator for comment but did not receive a response before deadline.
Mr McGough said the group was not against private investment at the former pub site, but reiterated the site should be used to rebuild a pub or hotel and that the community fund-raising was a last resort.
“If a private investor buys the land and is agreeable to build a hotel on it, there won’t be a problem, but we don’t want to see it bought for land bank, or building units on it,” he said.
“We would like to see a hotel back in Gembrook.”
The property is on the market and is set to be auctioned on 20 July.
The Gembrook Pub Working Group holds regular meetings, with dates posted on the Gembrook Community Group Facebook page.