October 26 2012 by Crafty Pint
Anyone who’s been to the Great Northern in Carlton North will be aware of what a great beer pub it is. Since being taken over by ex-Feral man Al Carragher a few years back, the classic suburban corner hotel has been transformed from a failing CUB pub into a thriving venue with 20 taps and pumps featuring excellent craft beers. The large beer garden has been given a major refurb, Wednesday nights are packed for an uproarious quiz night, it rocks during Good Beer Week and is a shining example of how good beer and a sense of humour can rescue a pub.
Regulars will also be aware that there’s been another secret to its success: Billy. The Staffy belonging to staff member Pratty is a steak-chomping ball of energy loved by all (but one) who frequent the venue. The dog is as much part of the furniture as the pool table in the front bar. Not only that, he’s the pub’s wine rep with his own Twitter account: @Billy_WineK9 – appointed by Al to keep them at arm’s length.
“He keeps them away,” explains Al. “One meeting with a dog – by appointment only – tends to do it.”
But a few months ago, a lone complaint was made about Billy’s presence in the venue and, due to a recent law change, the pub was told Billy was no longer allowed inside.
What wasn’t known to the decision makers was that Pratty suffers from depression and anxiety and Billy was his crutch. As such, the venue set about paving the way for his return, involving lawyers, petitions and a lot of love from its patrons.
“We got 2,500 signatures on the petition in just three weeks,” says Al. “And Billy underwent training to become officially recognised as an Assistance Animal under the Disability Discrimination Act.”
The lovable chunk’s cause was aided by an edict from the Australia & New Zealand Food Standards who declared earlier this month that:
- A food business must permit an assistance animal in areas used by customers.
- A food business may permit a dog that is not an assistance animal to be present in an outdoor dining area.
As such, earlier this week, Billy made a triumphant return to the pub – and his role as the Great Northern’s wine rep. The occasion was recorded for posterity by Billy-Cam, which you can view below.
So, Billy’s back and ready to dole out and receive affection in equal measure. As for his relieved owner’s reaction, Pratty says simply: “Fucken humans…”