Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

On Pubs : The Six O'clock Swill

It would probably be a surprise to most to learn that up until the First World War, hotel licensing hours were far less restrictive than for the greater part of the twentieth century.

Before then, hotels were allowed (in fact, compelled) to open from 11.00 a.m until 11 p.m., although variations could be applied for in areas close to docks, railways or markets where hotels could open as early as 4 a.m.  Sunday trading to the public was strictly prohibited, although they were exemptions for permanent guests and bona fide travellers who were staying at least twenty miles from the place of their previous night's occupation.

There was, of course, considerable opposition to both the number of hotels and the hours during which they were allowed to trade, and with the advent of the First World as something of a mark or respect for those serving overseas, the Victorian Government introduced in 1915 the Intoxicating Liquor (Temporary Restriction) Act which reduced the standard hours in which hotels could operate to between 9 a.m., and 9.30 p.m. (for premises with licensed billiard rooms, closure was extended to 11.30).

On 9 October, 1916, the closing time was reduced to 6 p.m., and the "temporary restriction" saw the infamous "six o'clock swill" as men just off work ordered multiple rounds in the frantic few minutes before cut-off time.

Even worse, hotels had to close their doors at 6.15, the subsequent rapid downing of drinks having a predictable unpleasant effect on both state of mind and the general cleanliness of the bar room floor.

Just what "temporary" means is of course a highly subjective term - in this case, the "temporary" measure of 1916 lasted a mere 50 years, doing much towards Victoria becoming known as the "wowser" state  before the restriction was lifted on 1 February, 1966 and drinking time was extended to 10 p.m.

There were still exceptions for bona fide travellers, hence we have Ron Bird's comments about the advantages of having an interstate or perhaps even overseas visitor staying at the Chevron when the offices were based nearby at 474 St. Kilda Road, a limited number of the crew able to retire upstairs to the Guest's Lounge to continue drinking when the public area closed.  (That we don't know here is how many visitor's arms were twisted to convince them to stay over for an extra Friday night).

It seems inconceivable to us now that post-work or play drink would have to come to a sudden end by six o'clock, but the reality was that even the extension of four hours didn't satisfy many - much of the original push for The Computer Club wasn't so much for a chummy atmosphere where the computer nerds of the daily could congregate, it was simply the alliance with The Light Car Club, which as a private club had extended trading until 1.00 a.m.

Wonder if The Computer Club would ever have got off the ground if it had been stationed, for example, at the College Lawn where a fair percentage of the original members could spend their time and money up until ten and then be turfed out!