SYDNEY’s first beer garden was established facing York Street outside Petty’s Hotel at the corner of Jamieson and Clarence Streets late in 1938.
While beer gardens are now common in the yards of Sydney pubs, they were difficult to find prior to the 1950s.
Beer gardens were much welcomed by women, who up until that time had been either confined to cramped, musty parlours, or in the 1940s and 50s forced to sit in cars and have their husbands or boyfriends bring them out their drinks.
Although it would be another 20 years before women were accepted in public bars, the beer gardens provided a refuge when they slowly began to appear in the yards of Sydney’s pubs from the late 1930s. They allowed a civilised area where woman could gather at a pub for a drink. More importantly though, beer gardens allowed mixed drinking, and arguably provided the gateway for women to eventually enter the men only public bars.
A women’s column in the Sydney Sun on November 20 1938 reported; “At last we have a beer garden… opened yesterday at Petty’s. Bright umbrellas and lacquered chairs alongside the street… later there’s to be a special section for women only”.
Goodbye To Petty’s Hotel
NOT even drinks “on the house” could disperse the gloom in Petty’s last night, when the 118-year-old hotel closed its doors for the last time. It has been bought by the Red Cross, which will turn it into a blood-bank headquarters.
The atmosphere was thick with nostalgia in the lounge and on the terrace, where a polite burst of clapping followed an announcement by the manager, Mr. T. T. Archer, that the drinks were “on the house.”
The same announcement in the public bar was the signal for a roar of approval, which brought in two policemen at the double. (They retired to a corner, looking relieved, and accepted the hospitality pressed on them by two old dockers.)
As 6 o’clock approached, Grace, up in the saloon bar, administered her last reproofs and advice to the city managers and clerks. “I’ve got the most exclusive clientele in Australia,” said Grace. “I don’t mean for money or anything like that, but they’re all nice and never any trouble.
“I like to see men behave themselves properly, especially if they’re drinking a beer. And that’s one thing you can say about Petty’s: there is never any of this ungentlemanly conduct here.”
“First time in a century they’ve closed the doors, they tell me,” said a truck driver in the public bar.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day when free beer made me feel sad. I suppose the pub’s being sold in a good cause. But where am I going to go? That’s what I want to know. Why, I’ve been coming here since 1908.”
The saddest touch of the evening came just after closing time, when a taxi drew up and decanted a very old gentleman. He came up to the reception desk and said, “I am just passing through Sydney, but I shall be back on the fifteenth. Could you please let me have a room then for one week?”
He appeared stunned to learn that Petty’s was sold to the Red Cross.
“But I always stay here,” he cried. “I had no idea of this: it’s four years since I came to the city, and I had no idea. Why, I’ve always stayed here, and so did my father. It’s the only place I could stay. Where on earth can I go, then?”
And so, to the bewilderment of a past generation and the sorrow of its present users, passed Petty’s Hotel: a place of countless pleasant memories and one of the few Sydney hotels where the tradition of civilised drinking still lingered on.
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Categories: Sydney hotels