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History

08 May 2019

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Pubs in Southbank

Looking for a pub in Southbank? It’s certainly not as easy as it once was.

The area was once populated with pubs like the Castlemaine and Wayside Inn in City Rd, the Queensbridge in Queensbridge St, the Royal Domain in St Kilda Rd (which became the Casa Manana, nicknamed the Case of Bananas), and the Main Point on the corner of Moray St and City Rd, opposite the Trades Hotel.

Most have been decommissioned and replaced as part of the transformation of Southbank. Some have been demolished for road extensions (such as the Castlemaine, part of the Castlemaine brewing complex and demolished in 1958). Nearby the Queensbridge Hotel awaits its fate as key part of the proposed extension of the Crown Casino. Numerous pubs continue to operate in South Melbourne, with the Maori Chief probably nearest to Southbank.

The most prominent former pub is the Main Point in Moray St. Built in 1869 of wood, plaster, and comprising four rooms, it was rebuilt with bricks in 1903. You can still see the date on the corner face of the building, beneath the most distinctive feature of the neo-Italian Renaissance design, the octagonal corner tower and metal-sheeted dome.

It was de-licensed in 1926, after which it was used as business premises – but it is still mostly intact and now the site of a costume business.

Like other Southbank pubs, it had a rich history. These pubs were generally beer barns for blokes – women could have a drink but not in the public bar – they were restricted to the Ladies Lounge.

The history of the Main Point (and other Southbank pubs) is full of tales of alcohol-fuelled violence, brawls (particularly after closing time), robberies, shootings, and with frequent charges laid against publicans for trading outside hours. The bars were full of beer and cigarette fumes, and cleaners can recall using garden rakes to gather up cigarette butts, and there were usually SP bookies operating in lanes next to the pubs.

Up until 1966, when trading hours were extended to 10 pm, pubs all across Melbourne closed at 6.00 pm, leading to the undignified hour between 5.00 and 6.00 (known as the Six O’Clock Swill), when thirsty drinkers tried to consume as much beer as possible.

Getting drunk was a sprint, not a marathon. The long-overdue change to hours was welcomed by most and also resulted in changes to layouts of pubs to cater for a different clientele, including lovers of live music.

Many pubs became family environments and are remembered fondly by South families.

 

Robin Grow - President

Australian Art Deco and Modernism Society

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