Constables nabbed for New Year’s Eve drinks at Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel

The Imperial Hotel, Erskineville, August 1930. Inset: a cartoon of the four constables appearing in court. Pictures: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University and Sydney Daily Pictorial February 6 1930.

FOUR Sydney police constables were caught-out on New Year’s Eve 1929 when they called into an Erskineville pub for after hours’ celebratory drinks with the publican.

Constables Robert Ramsay, Alfred Costello, William Mowbray and William Grover were each fined 10 shillings, with 8 shillings costs, for being on licensed premises during prohibited hours.

Closing time for Sydney pubs was strictly 6pm, and publicans caught flouting that law were often dealt with severely by the courts.

While the publican, Joe Bartimote of the Imperial Hotel at Erskineville thought he was safe from the long arm of the law by inviting the local constabulary into his establishment for after hours’ drinks, he wasn’t counting on their boss paying a visit.

Joseph James Bartimote was born in the central west NSW town of Canowindra in 1882. He married Elizabeth Goodacre in 1910 before working as a baker in nearby Woodstock. Joe, as he was known, entered the hotel industry when he inherited money from railway fettler, John Duggan after his death in 1919.

Joe’s first pub was the Bellevue Hotel on Regent Street, Redfern. In 1920, at the age of 32, he moved into the chiefly working class pub with his wife, Elizabeth and children.

Joe would go on to work the rest of his life in pubs – chiefly in the working class suburbs of Redfern, Newtown, Erskineville and Surry Hills.

After the Bellevue Hotel, he hosted the Rugby Hotel (Now the Newtown Hotel) on King Street, Newtown from 1921 to 1927, and later the Royal Exhibition Hotel in Surry Hills.

Joe took the license of Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel in 1929 at the age of 47. It was while hosting the Imperial that he landed in hot water with the law.

Joe Burtimote had invited four constables into the Imperial “for a little convivial drink” on December 31, 1929.

Unfortunately for the publican and four constables, Police Inspector Collings was passing the pub at 10.30pm when he noticed the bar illuminated and heard voices. The police boss knocked, and the licensee answered the door, allowing the inspector into his pub.

In a shed in the yard the Inspector found the four men. When he spoke to them they gave no reason for being on the premises, but the licensee said that it was the time of the year for a celebration.

Joe Bartimote’s Imperial Hotel, Erskineville, August 1930. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

The constables’ lawyer said that there were extenuating circumstances. It was New Year’s Eve and they had received an invitation from the licensee to come in for a drink. Each of the constables had written a candid report and the lawyer asked the magistrate to dismiss the case.

In view of the straightforward reports made by the men, the magistrate instead took a lenient view and imposed a nominal penalty. Joe though was fined £1, with 8 shillings costs.

After the Imperial, Joe hosted the Milton Hotel on King Street, Newtown, and later in retirement he went bush to help his son Ken run the Royal Hotel at Gulgong, and later the Mendooran Hotel.

Joe Bartimote died near Orange in 1957 at the age of 75. His widow, Elizabeth died in Newtown in 1973.

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