WINTON publican Paul Neilsen has a fair idea about how to keep his customers happy.
Good cold beer in a clean glass and quality food at a reasonable price are part of the equation. A warm greeting, no juke box, no pool table and no F-word bombs in the bar when women are present complete his business philosophy.
Neilsen, 60, owns and runs the Tattersalls Hotel, a true character pub close to the edge of town on Elderslie Street. Old caps, flags and car number plates adorn the walls and ceiling; what adorns the bar, especially when Neilsen’s working in it in his shorts and boots, is conversation.
He’s an open, friendly, talkative man, which suits his regulars fine because most of them are the same. When you go into the Tatts, it’s almost impossible to avoid a yarn.
Neilsen, a former tour operator and shire councillor, was born on the RAAF base in Williamtown, NSW, where his father, of Danish descent, worked in airfield construction; his mother was from Toowoomba. The young Neilsen was driving bulldozers at 14, was a construction rigger and coal mine worker in his 20s and was working in the mines near Mackay when a chance offer changed the course of his life.
“A publican in Eimeo (a Mackay suburb) offered me a job and I became the assistant manager, so you might say I became a publican by default. I came to Winton in 1987 and leased the Tatts for two years.
“I became a full-time tour operator for a few years until I bought the pub in 1995. I sold the tour business five or six years ago, but I’m still a guide for APT on their day tours up to Lark Quarry (dinosaur stampede site).”
Paul Neilsen is well qualified for showing people around his part of the Outback. He has a solid interest in horticulture, specialising in Australian native plants, and more than a passing knowledge of ecology, birds and natural history in general. He gives talks in his pub on local history and wildlife.
“I’ve been in the industry for 36 years and I’ve come to the conclusion I am mentally deranged…I’m still enjoying it,” he says. “Winton is an extraordinary town and a wonderful community. It’s a destination in its own right. When travellers arrive, they want someone to greet them. My people say ‘Hello’ to them as soon as they walk in, even if it’s flat out in the bar. Then they’re comfortable and you’ve got ’em for the night.”
Article by John Wright