THE history of hotels in New South Wales are closely tied to the laws that successive governments legislated to control the trade. Hotels were built, rebuilt, renovated and even closed according to those laws. Three important time periods are 1882-3, 1905 and 1919-23.
The first licensed hotels occurred in 1796, and laws of 1825, 1830, 1833, 1844, 1849 and 1862, addressed the opening hours and minimum number of bedrooms the hotel had to provide for public accommodation.
The closing hours of hotels was addressed by acts in
1825 – A closing hour of 9pm, six days a week with all day Sunday closing.
1849 – The closing hour was extended to 10pm.
1862 – Hotels were allowed to open from 4am to midnight six days a week and from 1pm to 3pm on Sundays.
1882 & 83 – These Acts were a reaction to this largesse, reducing opening hours to 6am to 11pm six days a week and re-introducing Sunday closing.
1916 – Six o’clock closing was carried by referendum, extended by Parliament in 1919, retained by referendum in 1947, and finally repealed, also by referendum in 1954.
That hotels should also provide public accommodation was emphasised in 1830, 1833, 1835, 1844 and 1882/83. The earlier laws laid laws down that a hotel should have a least two sitting rooms and two bedrooms for public use, the 1882/83 Acts increased this to two sitting rooms and four bedrooms, each not less than 1200 cubic feet in size. The result was that many hotels doubled in size in the 1880s, thus making this the first major period of architectural change for hotels.
From 1882/83 hotels were under siege from both the economy and the public at the ballot box. The 1882/83 Liquor Acts introduced municipal Local Option allowing ratepayers to decide the fate of their neighbourhood hotels. They could vote to either increase the number of licenses in their municipality or to continue the existing number, but not to decrease them.
The emphasis on accommodation overrode the power of the ballot box. Hotels with twenty-six rooms or more were not affected by the vote. Thus if you wanted to make certain your new hotel would be built you made certain it had enough rooms. Also as the vote was based on local government area, non-ratepayers in local government areas and those in areas without local government had no say. Despite this hotel licenses did decline in the 1890s largely as a result of the depressed economy.
The power to close hotels was given to all electors in 1905, when Local Option based on electorates rather than municipalities and using parliamentary franchise was legalised. Polls were held in 1907, 1910 and 1913.
Year and the number of electorates votes cut hotels
1907 – 65
1910 – 13
1913 – 16
After the Reduction or Local Option Courts were set up to decide which hotels would close. The criteria used included the condition of the building and the number of convictions against the licence under the Liquor Act. The poorly built and poorly run would be the target. The sittings of these courts are often reported in local newspapers and in 1908 give details of all hotels while in later years give details only of those to be closed.
293 hotels were closed from the first Poll and 50 from the second and third Polls combined. The hotels were given time compensation in lieu of money. So some hotels closed by the 1907 vote did not cease trading till 1912. But hotels could only be closed in areas that voted for reduction and many of the worst hotels were in areas that voted to keep their licenses.