Brothers in arms choose new life behind bar
ONCE they were brothers in arms but these days Brad Butson and Daniel John are brothers in business.
The two veterans of several tours of Afghanistan and other overseas deployments have swapped army life for running Brothers Café Bar and Restaurant in Marine Parade, Kingscliff.
"I did 10 years in the army and I started about the same time as Dan's brother. Dan's brother and I kept crossing paths: I'd be going out of Malaysia as he was going in,” Brad explained.
"Dan joined in 2004 and he and I were on a course together down at Puckapunyal. His brother rang me to tell me and we became mates from there. Then all of us ended up in Afghanistan together and I was attached to Daniel's brother's call sign for a large portion of the time and we were quite close to where Daniel was operating.”
When he got out of the army, Brad and wife Mary Ann travelled around the world, ending up running a hostel in Ecuador while Dan went from 10 years in the army to working in Afghanistan as security for diplomats. But Brad and Mary Ann longed for Australia and wanted to run a business here while Dan was starting to realise how much time he was spending away.
"We were looking at hostels abroad but we realised we actually liked being in Australia,” Brad said.
"So, we started looking for businesses in Australia. We were talking about doing a café that focused on local products and local coffee and all of those sorts of things. We got married in Kingscliff so it seemed natural to look at businesses for sale here.”
The couple purchased the old Byron Gourmet foods spot and began working closely with the business next door, owned by Dan and his brother, eventually deciding to merge the two businesses.
"Trying to think of a name for the restaurant was hard, we wanted it to be a bit military but not obviously so,” Brad said.
"My wife just said what about Brothers - Brothers By Choice was our motto in Afghanistan, we both had that tattooed on us.
"It's relatable, any veteran that comes in and sees the things around us they know it's military but for the general public it's not.”
Of course, there are still stresses just like in the military, but they believe their training has helped them through it all.
"I was working in bomb disposal teams and people joke that this has to be less stressful - I say, well bombs have to abide by certain rules, the general public don't,” Brad laughed.
"Having said that, when you've had a bit of a tough day you walk out the front there, you look at that ocean and you just go - well life is pretty good, it could be a lot worse.
"The biggest thing for us is being from the military you learn to be very adaptive, learn to be able to build a team to do any job. To make this work you just need a good team around you.”
And they have done just that, assembling a very experienced team including bringing in UK Michelin star-trained chef Darren Morgan, who after 10 years in restaurants and cafes in Melbourne moved north to spend more time with his family.
Though the duo are now adapting to life as local business owners and love the Kingscliff community, the military is never far from their thoughts. Recently, Brothers hosted Fred Smith a diplomat turned musician performing songs written and inspired by his time working alongside Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province in Southern Afghanistan.
Money raised on the day went to help Team Rubicon Australia (TRA) - a group which unites the skills and experiences of Australian Defence Force veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams around the globe and in Australia.
Brad and Daniel will soon hold a major fundraiser for Team Rubicon Australia - a group which unites the skills and experiences of ADF veterans.
The event, from midday to 4-5pm on September 15 will also double as an awareness day.
"Anyone who's got a veteran-owned business who wants to let the local population know, come on in and we'll give you your 10 minutes of fame,” Dan said.
- For further information about the upcoming fundraising day, go to www.brotherscaferestaurantbar.com or phone (02) 6674 8499.