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War time beer shortages

Imperial Hotel Milsons Point North Sydney 1949 anu

The Imperial Hotel, Milson’s Point, North Sydney 1949. Photo: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

imperial hotel milsons point sydney 1943 a

Drinkers crowded out of the Imperial Hotel, Milson’s Point. They are sitting on the kerb outside the hotel with their schooners.

Thousands rush beer at suburban hotel

Four thousand people gathered yesterday afternoon at the Imperial Hotel, Milson’s Point – one of the few hotels open in Sydney. The hotel served English beer at a shilling and six pence a pint.

Practically all hotels closed yesterday afternoon, because on February 6, the last raceless Saturday, 2000 people were involved in brawls at a Bondi hotel.

Nearly all the 4000 drinkers who went to the Imperial Hotel yesterday travelled by taxi, car, or ferry. One man said he had come from Petersham, another from Paddington, and a third from Balmain.

Jack Stainford, munition worker, of Bondi Road, Bondi, said: “I was in town this morning when I heard that British beer was on over here. I hadn’t tasted it since the last war – so here I am.

Drinkers were quiet. Very few were drunk, even by late afternoon. They drank, beer from pots or bottles – in the small, congested bar, on the footpath, sitting in long lines in the gutter, or in groups on the grass under the Bridge.

At 3pm: Six soldiers carried away quart bottles in three sugar sacks. Fifteen women sat on empty kegs in the hotel yard, drinking from pint pots. Crown and anchor and two-up schools were operating at the side of the hotel, but the games stopped when police arrived later.

At 5pm: It was like a picnic. Hundreds of people sat drinking on the grass in front of the hotel. Empty bottles were lined up in the gutter. A drunk, with an empty beer bottle held between his knees, milked two goats tethered under the bridge. A prawn vendor sold two huge baskets full at 3 shillings a pound. In five minutes 20 civilians and, soldiers carried away more than 60 quart bottles.

Police estimated that about 95 per cent, of all hotels in Sydney were closed by 1pm. They said that most hotelkeepers shut their doors because beer ran out, but some decided not to trade in the afternoon because they feared trouble.

A few hotelkeepers had closed to conserve stocks for weekday trading. Many suburban hotels closed before noon, arid there was a mild rush for the city by taxi and tram. All afternoon small bands, some soldiers, went from suburb to suburb looking for beer. By early afternoon only one hotel in George Street — Belfield’s— was still open. At the Quay two hotels — the Paragon and the Ship Inn – stayed open. The bars were packed.

Soldiers Start Fights

Paragon Hotel Circular Quay 1937 anu

The Paragon Hotel, Circular Quay, Sydney, 1937. Photo: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

At 4.30pm women on the footpath outside the Paragon drank beer handed out to them by friends. Hotels in Oxford and Flinders Streets were closed all afternoon. A few soldiers started a fight with civilians when the Grand National Hotel, Paddington, closed about 3pm, but the crowd soon stopped the brawl.

Randwick and Bondi Junction were dry and quiet all afternoon; but there was plenty of beer at Coogee; where bars were packed but orderly. The Golden Sheaf, at Double Bay, was closed all day, and will not open until next Tuesday.

“Black” Saturday

Mayfield Hotel Mayfield 1949 anu

Mayfield Hotel, Mayfield 1949. Photo: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

The most austere Saturday in Australia was observed at Newcastle, where there were no races, no sport, and 40,000 workers were observing a “black”, beer ban.

The effect of the Trades Hall Council’s ban on beer until schooners are sold throughout the day was tremendous in industrial suburbs. One hotel in Mayfield, which on the fortnightly pay-day usually changes £1300 in notes, this weekend changed less than £20.

An hotel in Hamilton much frequented by industrial workers at 5 o’clock this afternoon had 310 gallons left from what was considered a normal Saturday’s supply. Some unofficial picketing was carried out at several hotels. Drinkers and intending drinkers known to the unofficial pickets were spoken to quietly and refrained from drinking beer.

Hotels in Maitland and Boolaroo districts, outside the ban area, were crowded. Several hotels in Maitland ran out of beer long before closing time.

– Sydney Daily Telegraph Sunday 7 March 1943.

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Categories: Newcastle hotels, NSW hotels, Sydney hotels

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1 reply

  1. Fascinting article! Really well researched and well-written. Thank You! I will recommed this one!

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