52 Pubs in 52 Weeks: The Atherton Hotel
When locals talk about the landmark Atherton Hotel, they are likely to refer to it as the Black Stump or just the Stump.
It got its name following a fire that burned down the original old, two-storey, timber hotel in Main St in 1944, leaving nothing but a charred and blackened stump of an electrical pole.
“The name sticks, even today,” said manager Carlo Barletta, 50, whose family owns the iconic watering hole.
Due to labour shortages during and just after the war years, the pub was not rebuilt until 1954 and then upgraded in 2003.
The pub’s history is told on place mats in the restaurant which tend to get “souvenired” by tourists.
“You wouldn’t believe how many we lose every week,” Mr Barletta said.
“Tourists take them. Sometimes they ask and some try and take them sneakily.
“We just laugh – it is all good advertising for us.”
After the old pub burned down, the then owners quickly set up a “temporary” pub next door to quench the locals’ thirst.
Nowadays the hotel is considerably rather more upmarket than that makeshift establishment, boasting 18 four-star rooms, a function room, sports bar, public bar, restaurant and bottle shop, with another drive-through bottle shop planned.
The Barlettas came on the scene when Italian immigrant Joe Barletta, now 83, bought the hotel in January 1976.
He ran it himself for nine years, then leased it out for a time, before the family started running it again.
Despite handing over the reins to his family, Joe Barletta still keeps a close eye on how the popular hotel is being run.
“He (Joe) still comes down every day and has a couple of beers every morning to make sure the beer is cold and to see his old mates,” Carlo Barletta said. Some of those old friends were sitting in the public bar.
One, £10 Pom Michael Hutton, 67, who is the pub’s quizmaster, said Mr Barletta loved gardening.
“If he doesn’t turn up at 10.30am, we will know he has died in his garden,” said Mr Hutton.
Pub yardman George Hammett, who has been a regular at the Stump since the Barlettas took over, admits to having been kicked out on the odd occasion for having had a little too much to drink.
In the old days, he said the pub was the haunt of tradesmen.
“Anyone looking for a job would come in here,” Mr Hammett said.
He recalled an incident when the pub was being refurbished where rain poured in and flooded the bar to the depth of 30cm.
“We all jumped on the bar and kept drinking,” he said.
Former assistant manager Jodie Ashford, 38, said the hotel had a very friendly, family-oriented establishment.
“There is not much trouble here at all,” she said.
“If you threw someone out, they came back the next day to apologise.”
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The friendly atmosphere of the Atherton Hotel, where the beer is always cold.