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Sydney’s Inner West Council will give heritage protection to 27 local pubs to protect the area’s “famous pub culture” and act as a bulwark against the potential redevelopment of much-loved drinking holes.
A four-year process has determined the list of pubs to be protected, with seven in Balmain, six in Rozelle and four in Newtown – including the former site of the Sandringham Hotel, once a famous live music joint, which is now a mini golf course.
Former Angels frontman Doc Neeson plays at the Save Our Sando rally outside the Sandringham in 2012. He died in 2014.Credit:Dean Sewell
Some pubs are already located in heritage conservation areas but will now be explicitly protected under the council’s local environment plan. Councillors will sign off on the list at a meeting on Tuesday night – the recommendation of a 500-page report by heritage consultants GML.
It comes four years after a public outcry about the redevelopment of Balmain’s Town Hall hotel, built in 1879, which was turned into a gym, massage parlour and bottle shop. At the time, Mayor Darcy Byrne feared a “snowball effect” would clean out the inner west’s storied public houses.
“We’ve got to draw a line in the sand and prevent that happening,” he said. “There’s a strong view that we can’t let our pub culture go out the back door.”
Three pubs in Enmore will be heritage listed – the Warren View, Duke of Enmore and the Queens Hotel – as will the Vic on the Park and Royal Exchange in Marrickville, the Lewisham Hotel, the Annandale and North Annandale hotels, and Newtown’s Websters Bar, Kelly’s on King and the Carlisle Castle Hotel.
To be heritage listed: the Carlisle Castle Hotel in Newtown, pictured in 2019.Credit:Edwina Pickles
Many other inner west pubs are already heritage listed. The GML study examined 29 additional venues and only recommended against listing two: the Red Lion Hotel on Darling Street, Rozelle, and the Merton Hotel on Victoria Road, also in Rozelle.
Pub prices are running hot, and the Herald reported earlier this month that close to $2 billion in assets had changed hands in the past year. Pub baron Arthur Laundy bought the Hunts Hotel in Liverpool for about $45 million, while the Oaks in Neutral Bay is on sale for $175 million.
But councils are mindful of community angst about local watering holes being snapped up and redeveloped. In some cases, such as the Four In Hand pub in Paddington, community campaigns have “saved” the pub from destruction.
Earlier this year, Brody Peterson put his nearby Village Inn on the market and initially attracted interest from property developer Theo Onisforou, who emailed Woollahra Council flagging his intention to close the pub and redevelop it as residential and retail.
The Unity Hall Hotel, known as the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party, is also on the heritage shortlist.Credit:Kate Geraghty
But asked about his plans at the time, Onisforou said he did not want to buy the pub, and Peterson said he would not sell it to Onisforou. He later took it off the market.
The GML report for Inner West Council notes the area’s pubs are known for their “historical charm and reputation, especially in Balmain and Rozelle”, but have recently had to compete with small bars and independent breweries.
“Several hotels have since closed in the inner west, victims of the changing tastes, gentrification and
decreasing rate of alcohol consumption in the Australian population,” it said.
The motion to be debated on Tuesday night calls for the council to commence engagement with landowners and patrons on the proposed heritage listings, and prepare a planning proposal to give effect to the recommendations.
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