Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

On Pubs : the Licenses Reduction Act

There are around sixteen or seventeen hotels currently mentioned in our archives.

Some are gone, others now function more as restaurants and/or coffee shops and wine bars than the traditional "pubs", but what will surprise many is that of those referenced, all except the Chevron were, or very close to, a hundred years old when patronised by Control Data.

Almost without exception, the hotels would have been rebuilt between 1920 and 1930.

Up until 1872, the minimum requirements when applying for a license were simply to have available a bar, bedroom and a sitting room or parlour  which were not required for use by the publican and his or her family.

In 1907, the Victorian Government introduced the Licenses Reduction Bill, resulting in the appointment of a Licenses Reduction Board and with stated intention of removing at least one-third of Victorian hotels over the next twenty years .

The Board was established on 21 May, 1907, original members Charles Leonard Andrews, Robert Barr and Thomas Forrest Cumming.  Most of the early years of the Board's operations were concentrated on the inner city area, Collingwood, Richmond, Fitzroy and South Melbourne and by January, 1910, some 311 hotels had been closed and over £140,000 paid out in compensation. (Compensation was payable both to the licensee and the freehold owner of the property based in sales over the preceding two years, although no compensation was payable if hotel had forfeited its licence since 1886 through misconduct of the licensee.

Most of the districts that we frequented - Prahran, South Yarra, Windsor and St. Kilda had a lesser number of hotels and were not examined until the 1920s - the emphasis by this stage was less on the conduct of the hotel as it had been in earlier days and more on its ability to provide dining and accommodation facilities and a service to the general public, all of which had been neglected by owners and licensees over the years.

For just about every hotel that survived, this meant a rebuilding or extension, some of which are outlined in the histories (one specific requirement noted as that each hotel was required to have a separate entrance to the accommodation area as opposed the defined area for service of liquor).  

The Board effectively wound up around 1930 - some 477 hotels in the metropolitan area had been closed, and 1,149 in the country, with a total payout in compensation of just under £1,100,000. (Under the Act, licensees could voluntarily hand in licenses and receive similar compensation. There were also ten hotels closed in the Booroondara and Mildura Licensing Districts under what was known as a Local Options Poll where ratepayers could elect to maintain the same number of hotels, reduce the number (Mildura) or remove them entirely (Booroondara).

The subsequent use to which the delicensed hotels were put were wide and varied - several in the South Melbourne area for example are known to have been converted into boarding houses - but the reality was most of those that were closed were built prior to 1885 when a new and much more stringent Licensing Act came into force and were in a fairly dilapidated condition.

Those built after 1885 were typically substantial in natures, and again using South Melbourne as an example (the Albert Park, Bleak House, Middle Park, Victoria and Windsor, now the Red Eagle), there was no serious consideration given to closure, although some required alteration.

An earlier Act of 1872 had imposed some building standards (to be of brick or stone construction as a minimum), but prior to this, anyone of a good character could request a license provided he or she had three rooms (bar, parlour and bedroom) available outside of their personal use.