Grosvenor Hotel: Pay-back practical joke cost Melbourne publican £50

The Grosvenor Hotel, Little Collins Street, Melbourne, 1969. Picture: Fairfax Archives
The site of the Grosvenor Hotel, Melbourne. Picture: Google Streetview

THE long-gone Grosvenor Hotel was located at the corner of Little Collins Street and Equitable Place, Melbourne. I’m not sure exactly when we lost this pub from Melbourne’s past, and would appreciate any information on its demise. The pub was still operating in 1969.

In 1948 the four storey pub was described as a building with basement and had a frontage of 27 feet to Little Collins Street and a depth of 63 feet to Equitable Place. Part of the property consisted of a shop at the rear, which had a frontage of 23 feet to Equitable Place and a depth of 25 feet.

During the 1940s the shop traded as a hardware store, but during the 1950s reportedly it had become a “bottle department” for the pub.

The Melbourne Argus reported a practical joke played on long-time publican, Jack Mulcahy, on Friday 5 May 1950. Jack had been a Victorian hotelier for decades, learning the trade from his father Jack Sen. and growing-up in the Grand Hotel, Zeehan, Tasmania, before taking the license of the Grosvenor Hotel in July 1949.

His prank caught him on the hops

free beer 3
Jack Mulcahy with the poster

A CITY publican had to serve free beer to hundreds of thirsty customers yesterday because of a practical joke.

He is Mr. Jack Mulcahy, licensee of the Grosvenor Hotel, Little Collins st (Melbourne, Victoria).

Two of Mr. Mulcahy’s friends early this week posted notices on walls around the city, saying Mr. Mulcahy would “turn on free beer today to honour interstate oarsmen who are here practising for the King’s Cup.”

The friends Jack Berkery and Sid Hammond, Tasmanian Rowing Council officials, here with the Tasmanian King’s Cup crew, put up the notices to payout Mr. Mulcahy for a joke he played on Mr. Hammond before the King’s Cup in Tasmania in 1948.

Mr. Mulcahy, who was coach of the Victorian 1948 King’s Cup crew, put a notice outside Mr. Hammond’s Hobart produce store, saying 30/ worth of potatoes could be bought in-side for 6/6.

Mr. Hammond’s store was rushed, but he honoured the notice to many customers.

As he served the free beer yesterday Mr. Mulcahy said: “I have lived up to some of the bargain, but I can’t go on doing it forever. I don’t think we’ll be serving ‘free for all’ tomorrow.” Then he started to tear down the notices.

Drinkers came into his small bar in a steady stream from 12.45 to 2 p.m., and each received a beer on the house.

When the free beer was turned off Mr. Mulcahy estimated it had cost him more than £50.

Mr. Mulcahy said: “The worm turned on me. and my joke came back; but I can wait till I get back to Tasmania again. Then there might be a third joke.”

While many were talking about the need for more civilised drinking conditions, Jack Mulcahy came-up with the “Pot Club in 1950.

In what was described as a snug, panelled bar at the Grosvenor Hotel, known to its habitues as “The Club,” Jack offered the regulars beer from individual pewter pots. Each pot had the drinkers’ name engraved on it, and were a gift from Jack to his patrons.

With over four dozen pots in circulation, drinkers included a group of Royal Brighton Yacht Club members and two or three Test and interstate cricketers.

A social media response: Peter Hall – “We used to drink there as late as 1978. I think it was still there in the 80’s. It went downstairs at some stage.”

Subscribe to the latest Time Gents’ stories


WOULD you like to make a small donation to The Time Gents website through Paypal? If you would like to support my work, you can leave a small tip here of $2, or several small tips, just increase the amount as you like. Your generous patronage of my work and research, however small it appears to you, will greatly help me with my continuing costs.



INSTEAD, you can make a small donation towards the publishing of the Time Gents website with your credit or debit card. If you would like to support my work, you can leave a $2 donation here, or you can increase the amount after clicking into the icon below. Your generous patronage of my work and research, however small it appears to you, will greatly help me with my continuing costs.

Categories: Melbourne Hotels

Tags: , , , , ,

What's Your Thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: