From a schoolhouse to stabling horses, the history of some of the Eastern Suburbs’ best-loved pubs goes far beyond schooners.
We look at the past of five popular pubs in Coogee, Clovelly, Randwick and Maroubra.
Coogee Bay Hotel
The Coogee Bay Hotel wasn’t always a watering hole.
The pub’s large waterfront parcel of land was transferred into private ownership in 1853. By 1859 a single-storey building had been erected on the site, which was opened as a school that same year.
The school eventually relocated once it outgrew the building, and in 1873 the Coogee Bay Hotel opened its doors for the very first time.
The Coogee Bay has seen eastern suburbs locals through good times and bad. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald over 100 years ago, during World War I a recruitment rally at the pub attracted around 1000 people. Speeches given encouraged the young men in the crowd “not to stand looking at the recruiting posters but to join the army”.
But by far the Coogee Bay’s biggest drawcard was Selina’s, the pub’s renowned live music venue. At its peak through the 1980s and 90s, countless legendary names took to the stage there: David Bowie, Nirvana, Midnight Oil, Foo Fighters, Iggy Pop, Paul Kelly, INXS, Dinosaur Jr, Cold Chisel and many more.
Royal Hotel, Randwick
First known as Browne’s Royal Hotel after John Browne, the first licencee, the much-loved Royal has been a local meeting place since it started serving customers in 1887.
Randwick and Coogee swimming club regularly met at the Royal at the end of the 19th century. And in the early years of the 20th century the Newmarket Football Club held their meetings there, too. The Royal was even home to the Randwick Volunteer Fire Brigade until they got their own headquarters in 1908.
The pub has had ties with the racing industry from its beginnings. Browne, who also owned the nearby Coach and Horses Hotel, had several relatively successful racehorses, and many out-of-town racehorses were also stabled at his pub.
This beautiful old pub is now heritage-listed with the National Trust, and continues to serve the local community.
Bay Hotel and Diner, Maroubra
Publican George Hammond must have been a determined man. With the Doncaster Hotel in Kensington already under his belt, Hammond jumped through numerous legal hoops to finally be granted permission to open another pub, the Maroubra Hotel.
After a process that took some years, Hammond received the licence in October 1926. But Hammond seemed to get cold feet quit quickly, and by May 1927 he’d transferred the licence and moved on.
While the Maroubra Bay Hotel once had a bit of a rough reputation, that changed with new ownership and a complete overhaul in 2014. These days it’s the much more relaxed Bay Hotel and Diner, where classic pub fare, share plates and family gatherings are on the menu alongside the beers.
Duke of Gloucester, Randwick
Today it’s affectionately known as the DOG, but the Duke of Gloucester wasn’t always so popular with its customers.
In 1946, drinkers boycotted the hotel over its bottled beer policy. According to the disgruntled customers, the pub was not serving bottled beer in, well, bottles. Instead, they were decanting it into glasses and, it seems, selling it at inflated prices. The boycotters also demanded that barmaids and bartenders be polite to them, a demand which was met and even reported on in newspapers of the time.
Now owned by Merivale, the DOG keeps today’s customers more than satisfied with a fully refurbished interior, a terrific menu, and all the beer you could want.
Clovelly Hotel, Clovelly
The Clovelly Hotel sits high above the beach, with its distinctive arches framing the gorgeous view. But before it was built, the land it stands on was home to another icon: Mundarrah Towers.
Mundarrah Towers – complete with more than one stone tower – was a prestigious estate built for politician Dr Dickson in the 1860s. It was then owned by Samuel Bennett of the Australian Town and Country Journal before being demolished in 1926.
The “Cloey” made the headlines in 2016 when it was purchased by chef Matt Moran’s Solotel Group, before quickly selling again in 2018.
And it’s certainly not the first time in its long history that it’s been in the news.
In 1926, the Clovelly Hotel had an air of 1920s grandeur about it. The Sunday Times revealed that the Licensee’s wife, “Mrs. Westphal has generously lent the ballroom at Clovelly Hotel, where a dance will be held” with the proceeds to be given to the “Food for Babies Fund”.
The following month in a feature called “Tea Table Gossip” the same paper reported that “Mrs. Westphal and Mrs. Stanley Patrick were joint hostesses at a delightful evening at the Hotel Clovelly last Wednesday, when they entertained the committee of the Food For Babies Fund and many others. Mrs. Stanley Patrick wore a beautiful frock of brocaded silver tissue, whilst Mrs. Westphal chose a smart black marocain.”
But there were less glamorous times too. On 15 February 1927, well before random breath tests, a news report in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that a “motor car containing a party of five Sydney people skidded and overturned on the Raglan Hill” near Bathurst:
“The occupants had a narrow escape, and were only very slightly injured. The driver of the car, George Lawrence Talbey, proprietor of the Clovelly Hotel, Coogee, was before the Court today for having driven a car while under the influence of liquor, and was fined £5.”
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