Publican bookmakers and the White Bay Hotel, Rozelle

White Bay HOtel 1992

The White Bay Hotel, Rozelle, in Sydney’s inner-west, 1992. Picture: Supplied

White Bay Hotel Rozelle 1949 ANU

The White Bay Hotel, Rozelle, 1949. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

norman smirl

Publican: Norman James Smirl

A CASE of outstanding importance to all publican  bookmakers was decided by the Full Bench of Licensing Magistrates last week, when application by Norman James Smirl for the renewal of his licence at the White Bay Hotel, Rozelle [Sydney], was successful.

Smirl has also held a bookmaker’s licence since 1926, and his application was opposed by the Licensing Inspector, who objected that his bookmaking activities might interfere with the proper conduct of the hotel. In deliberating on the first case of its kind, the Bench made it clear that no reflection was cast on Smirl personally, or as a hotel licensee.

“It is not suggested that a licensed bookmaker is not a person of good character,” said the Chairman (Mr. Scobie, S.M.), “on the contrary, we are informed that a searching inquiry is made into character before a bookmaker’s licence is granted.

‘Undesirable Rule’

“The court is of the opinion that it is undesirable, as a general rule, that any man holding a betting licence should be licensee of a hotel.

A licensed bookmaker holding a hotel licence may well attract to his hotel people wishing to bet illegally,” the Chairman added.

“It is the policy of the State to divorce all betting activities from hotels.”

Mr. J. W. Laidlaw (for Smirl), quoting numerous instances of publican-bookmakers, said Smirl had held the White Bay licence since December, 1942. He admitted that his client was absent from the hotel each Saturday, from noon until about 5.30pm, but had a friend who adequately under studied.

Mr. Laidlaw then instanced a lengthy list of metropolitan publicans who had golfing, bowling, horse breeding, bookmaking and other interests which caused their regular absence from their premises, but did not preclude them being considered satisfactory licensees.

After several days to consider the case, the Full Bench gave its judgement for Smirl, because of his general good character, the exemplary conduct of the various hotels where he has been licensee, and the fact that previous licences had been renewed to him without objection when he held a bookmaker’s licence.

Serious Attitude

But the serious attitude of the licensing authorities to bookmaker publicans and the intimation of a general survey of licensees, were shown by the following statement issued by the Bench:“We understand that there are a number of other licensees who are holders of bookmakers’ licences also. Each such case will be dealt with on its own merits. If, however, the licensee’s conduct during the past 12 months has been satisfactory, it is probable that renewal of these licences will be granted, unless there is evidence indicating a lack of proper control of the hotel during the licensee’s absence.

“The position is different, however, in an application for transfer to a person who is a licensed bookmaker,and such transfers will not ordinarily be granted.

“Similarly, a licensed publican who takes out a bookmaker’s licence may have to face an objection against the renewal of his publican‘s licence.”

– Sydney Truth Sunday 30 April 1944 


White Bay Hotel Rozelle October 1937 ANU

White Bay Hotel, Rozelle, October 1937. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

A brief history of the White Bay Hotel, Rozelle

The White Bay Hotel was established in 1860 at the corner of the then Crescent and Weston Streets in Rozelle, in Sydney’s inner-west, to quench the thirsts of the workers of the Glebe Island abattoirs and soap factories.

The pub was relocated in 1915 to make way for the White Bay goods railway, and rebuilt in brick on what is now Victoria Road. It became popular with the wharfies (longshoremen) of the White Bay Container Terminal until the transferral of its facilities to Port Botany.

The White Bay Hotel became increasingly squeezed by the widening of Victoria Road after the construction of the Anzac Bridge and eventually closed for business in 1992.

Between 1992 and 2008, squatters had moved in and were particularly prominent during the Sydney 2000 Olympics. In June 2008, the owner of the hotel had lodged an application to redevelop the building.

On 5 September 2008, the hotel was destroyed by fire and was demolished.

The NSW Government purchased the site in June 2010 for $2.5 million. Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority have cleared the site of building rubble, and today nothing remains of the old wharfies’ pub.

-Adapted from Wikipedia


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Categories: NSW hotels, Publicans, Sydney hotels

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