Sydney’s stolen beer glass epidemic

Royal Exibition Hotel Surry Hills TG 2017

Royal Exhibition Hotel in Chalmers Street, Surry Hills had problems with beer glass theft during the 1940s. Photo:

Royal Exhibition Hotel Chalmers StreetSurry Hills 1949 ANU

The Royal Exhibition Hotel, Surry Hills, 1949. Photo: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

DURING the 1940s, Sydney’s pubs experienced a huge problem with customers stealing beer glasses. 

In Sydney’s 600 hotels during 1944, the weekly loss of beer glasses by theft and breakages was estimated by the United Victuallers Association, the forerunner of today’s Australian Hotel Association, to be at 180,100.

Royal Exibition Hotel Sydney stolen glasses 1949 ANU

A drinker has a chuckle over the warning sign in the Royal Exhbition Hotel, Surry Hills in 1949.

This meant that the average weekly loss from each Sydney hotels was 300 glasses!
As a result glasses were rationed and some publicans started charging drinkers a bond on their glasses. Drinkers glasses had to be refilled after they were emptied.

At the time ULVA, president N H Connolly went on a education campaign telling newspapers of the financial burden the theft was causing publicans. He himself bought new glasses for use in his own hotel, and on the first day he began to serve beer in them, 24 were stolen.
The Glen Innes Examiner in June 1944 reported: “Many of the glasses are broken in rush periods, but more than 75 per cent are stolen by drinkers,” Mr Connolly said.

“At three Bondi Junction hotels recently 1400 glasses were stolen in one week. In one day at Randwick racecourse 35 dozen glasses were stolen from the liquor bars. Each hotel is on a quota, but towards the end of ration period most publicans are practically without glasses,” Mr Connolly said.

Proprietor of The Lakes Hotel, Mascot, reportedly had 200 glasses stolen by drinkers from his hotel every Saturday afternoon!

The problem got so bad at the Royal Exhibition Hotel in Chalmers Street, Surry Hills during 1949 that the publican whacked an illustrated sign up in the bar stating: “If you need glasses, see an optician, don’t take ours!”



Categories: Australian Hotel Association, beer glasses, NSW hotels, Sydney hotels, United Victuallers Association

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1 reply

  1. Why did they steal them? Did anyone ask? Cos its nice to have them at home? Why?

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