When I'm dead, cremate me and spread my ashes over the front bar.
To the hard drinking, the death of a pub can come as a tremendous blow.
The other day, while driving through North Fitzroy, I noticed the Recreation Hotel (formerly The Old Homestead Inn) was up for sale; to be replaced by “executive apartments”*.
The Old Homestead and I go back a great many years. If I had a dollar for each hour I’ve spent there; drinking, laughing with friends, meals, birthdays, flirting with the barmaid and playing pool I’d have a shitload of money to spend drinking, laughing with friends, meals, birthdays, flirting with the barmaid and playing pool – only this time at another hotel.
The Old Homestead is the latest in a number of hotels in the inner city to close and be replaced with apartments; a development I regard with some concern and not just because it limits my capacity to intake perfectly legal, mind-numbing intoxicants.
Pubs were important to the development of a civil culture in Melbourne. Political parties and trade unions were formed there, sporting clubs and friendly societies used them as meeting rooms and any number of bands (a great number of them truly awful) played their first gig in a Melbourne pub.
When they go, what replaces them**?
Drive out through any of the new housing estates being built on the outskirts of Melbourne and you won’t find a single corner pub. You won’t find much in the way of corner milk-bars, newsagents, fish and chip shops or phone boxes either, but that’s not the point. If you’re lucky, you might find a licensed establishment in one of the shopping centres but that’s not the same as the local boozer you can drop in for quite ale after work or walk to with the family for a Sunday afternoon roast.
Of course, many of the old corner pubs were appalling blood-houses but most were a way of catching up with friends and neighbours for a consoling beer.
Good-bye Old Homestead. I’ll miss you.
And may the new inhabitants of the “executive apartments” to be built on its site be haunted by the souls of a hundred years of noisy drunks.
* No, I don’t know what “executive apartments” are either but they sound ghastly.
** People who say “social media” can fuck off right now.