Two footmen rule the Sovereign

Two footmen rule the Sovereign
Image: Peter Haines and Steve Jebb cooking up all sorts of community

Dear Steve and Peter,

I snuck up to Townsville for a friend’s 40th on the weekend. I packed my camera and thought I’d snap some pics of the goings on at the Sovereign Hotel for the Star Observer while in town. Pretty simple really.

When deciding where to stay, what better place than your joint, right? As you said when I went to make the booking: “Where else can you walk up one flight of stairs after a big night and not worry about a late checkout?”  Thank you for upgrading me to the “Versace” room (pronounced vur-saysse), which included such exquisite luxuries as its own bathroom and a kettle.

Also in typical country style, you had already let the birthday boy into the room to freshen up. No fancy lobby. More like a comfy uncle’s place. I noted your pride that you had recently been bumped from being a one star joint to a 1.5 star – a massive 50 per cent improvement. Well done, boys. Well done.

Dressed up hotties  know Macarena moves at the Sovereign
Dressed up hotties know Macarena moves at the Sovereign

On a Saturday night busloads of people swung in, as popping in for a leg of a pub crawl in Townsville must include going via “the Sov”. And Steve, you old party lad, I saw how your face lit up when you hit the decks in a DJ booth that rivals ARQ’s in Sydney. Even if you do play the Macarena for the pub-crawlers who knew the moves  what the?

Okay, I confess I did take some of your customers up to the room midway through the night for vodka shots to save the bar costs. But no way was there any intention to lure them away for mischief, no siree. Who would possibly do such a trashy thing in your grand old dame of a building that is heritage listed? No such classlessness here.

After returning with a gaggle of your local customers from our self-made pop-up vodka bar upstairs, we danced in your two different rooms. And once a month you put on a full-on drag and dancers show that is as good as you will find anywhere, giving your local talent a chance to strut their stuff.

I spied your amazing vinyl collection that tells a story of a lifetime of entertaining and a love of music in all its forms. Everything from 70s funk and garage beats through to trance from recent times.

As I grew weary, I took your advice and stumbled up the stairs where many other 40th birthday guests had decided to lay their heads.

Sure it was a touch remiss of me to not lock the door, so I guess I kind of asked for some of the last remaining guests to pop in seeking vodka. One guest that came to borrow a towel from my room still remains a bit of a random mystery. I mean, how did he know I was the reigning towel queen of the Sovereign? Did you boys blab?

Thank goodness for your large comfortable bed, as some friends and some new besties decided that this was their resting place, as their hangover brewed. And just as well because on this morn, there were fewer legs on an octopus than in our bed, somewhat ironic given the leglessness involved.

And as if you have a sense of humour  the aircon runs on $1 coins for six hours. A requirement given the amount of guests in the Vursaysse suite. But could I find a $1 coin anywhere? No. No, I could not. Almost like a planned revenge for my pop-up vodka bar competing with you, albeit briefly, from the night before.

Peter Haines and Steve Jebb in front of the Sunday banquet
Peter Haines and Steve Jebb in front of the Sunday banquet

What a treat for you to turn your main bar on Sunday into a feasting table, where you can have a $10.50 roast around a large table that you set up right in the middle of everything. A deft touch to keep the dining room open for guests that would rather enjoy the more conventional restaurant experience.

We had a true Sunday roast. We communed with friends and strangers, as you boys sweated half your bodyweight off in the hot kitchen, because chefs are not on the menu with your budget. You still found time make sure you didn’t poison my buddy — Princess Celiac Simon — by making him a special dinner.

So after setting the gold standard for eventful hotel stays, we decided to extend our stay, taking us unexpectedly smack-bang into a fabled environment. You don’t open on Mondays and Tuesdays. So we had a country pub to ourselves. Craig (birthday boy), Nathan, Simon and I sat chatting with you both in my equivalent of Charlie’s Chocolate Factory, enjoying a VB in a stubby cooler.

There we were in Steve’s beats bar while he repaired the projector from six other disemboweled projectors, because on Saturday you both thought the experience wasn’t just right and buying a new projector is just not an option in tight times.

Mitch Tavener and Kelli Sawden think the projector was working just fine and dandy
Mitch Tavener and Kelli Sawden think the projector was working just fine and dandy

Just quietly, the projector provided no end of entertainment and didn’t seem like it needed a tweak as we got jazz hands a plenty on Saturday, but this is about a certain pride that you take in delivering something special each and every week for nearly 17 years.

As we chatted, you lamented about of the rip-off merchant finance company that has relied on you both being stand up blokes, while they play trickery with words.

We learned that you are a bit away from the other pubs closer to town. So those that have been banned from every other bar try their hand at the Sov. You both don’t talk about it from how it affects you, rather about keeping your customers safe and free from homophobia, while also giving what some may say are drunkards a chance to feel welcome if they can play nicely with others.

You spoke of your frustration that following Cyclone Yasi, you now need to sell an additional 40,000 beers just to cover increased insurance premiums and how that just can’t be done. And how Peter works mammoth weekend shifts as security, just so you can keep your treasured 5am license.

You boys could be looking at retiring, as you nervously consider that you are only one of two pubs bothering to stay open on a Sunday. But you are not. The long hours are part of it aren’t they?

There you are everyday, fiddling, fixing, financing, feeding and filling your venue’s treasured guests with something that money can’t buy  community. Thanks, loves.

See you again. I think I will miss your cat Sally’s 18th birthday on ANZAC Day, but I hear she draws a crowd.

RELATED: The pictures from the Sovereign from last weekend.

Miles Heffernan was a guest of the Sovereign Hotel for accommodation only.


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