Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

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Ex-CDA comments, suggestions, criticisms

 1930 : Have A Drink On Us1

In 1907, the Victorian Government launched a concerted campaign to reduce the number of hotel licenses in the state by at least a third

The Licenses Reduction Act empowered a Board to examine on a district-by-district basis every hotel in the state to assess the history of compliance with liquor laws, its necessity for the general public, and, in later years, whether there was an adequate service in providing meals and accommodation

Given neither Northcote nor Preston had ever seen an excessive number of hotels, the examination locally didn't come until 1921, by which time over 1,000 licenses in inner Melbourne had been revoked

Two locals were de-licensed, the Bridge Hotel on the bank of the Merri Creek in Northcote and the Prince Albert on the south-western corner of High and Showers Street in Preston



The published figures represented approximately 93% of the total votes with some absentee and non-enrolled votes still be counted, but with little impact on the overall result expected   

Given the small but still significant majority of female voters, it would be fascinating to know just how the fairer sex voted compared with their male counterparts, but of course, voting cards could not identify the voter's gender, so we will never know!


The Prince Alfred didn't go down without a fight, however

After the owners were given notice that the license was to be withdrawn from 31  December, they appealed for a rehearing, their representative claiming that the Licenses Reduction Board had not sufficiently considered the accommodation available at competing premises (almost certainly the Junction and Gowerville Hotels) and that it had not followed the procedures set down in the 1915 Act  No fresh evidence was tendered, however, and the Board after outlining the procedures it had followed in reaching its decision refused the application for a new hearing

The owner of the Bridge Inn (appropriately Gustav Beer), received a compensation payment of £1000, the licensee, Laura Regan £300; the Prince Alfred (Mrs M  Macnamara), £1,250 and (Catherine Mulqueeny), £400  The combined total for the Prince Alfred was the second highest of 18 hotel premises de-licensed in 1921, Mrs Mulqueeny taking over and rebuilding the Preston Arms Hotel in later years

As well as examining individual hotels, the Act enabled the holding of Local Option polls where voters could have their say on the future on the liquor trade in their area

Early polls were held by local electorate and presented voters with three options - removal of all licences from their district, a reduction in the number of licenses, or continuing with the existing number subject to the rulings of the Licences Reduction Board,

Booroondara and Nunawading in Melbourne's east had opted to eliminate licenses entirely in early polls

The concept of a poll in Darebin was never mooted given the relatively few hotels in the district, but 1930 saw a change of policy and this was last of the so-called Local Option Polls, but one with two major differences

The Act was modified to allow a state-wide poll, and the the options became simply "Yes" to allow the Board to continue (although it had virtually outlived its purpose) or "No License" which would mean all licenses would be revoked

Given the legislation required a 60% "No license" vote to effect a change, few if any commentators gave the abolitionists any chance of success, nor did they in practical terms support the proposal   

At a time when the Great Depression was starting to have a major impact on the community, a "No License" vote across Victoria would have meant all hotel, wine shop, railway refreshment rooms, club, grocer's, merchants and steamship packet licenses would have been eliminated; some 2,500 in total with an estimated 12,000 people directly employed likely to be added to the rapidly growing unemployment figures and with the virtual elimination of the growing of hops and barley in the state

There would also have been a loss of around £329,000 in revenue, estimated at £61,000 currently distributed from the licensing funds to municipal councils, £23,000 from the police superannuation fund, and £245,000 from consolidated revenue  

Other than Booroondara and Nunawading, the only other licenses that were not to be affected by a "No License" resolution were 12 hotels in the Mallee and a handful in other country areas that were exempted through improvements ordered by the Licenses Reduction Board

Although the practicality must have been open to question, the legislation allowed brewers and distillers to continue to manufacture for export purposes and to supply the exempted licenses   

Under the proposed legislation, wine could still be exported, although the shipping of spirits to the U S A , then with prohibition laws in place, was banned

Liquor could be imported privately and "drinking clubs" established provided the premises were kept in good order, and perhaps something more of a worry, liquor could be manufactured at home for personal consumption

The other variation for the 1930 poll given that it was a State referendum was that voting was made compulsory with a potential £2 fine for those failing to expressing their opinion (perhaps opting to spend the afternoon in the pub)?

At the time the 1930 results were published, there were 1,029,220 voters on the roll, 497,531 male and 531,689 female, and it was estimated some 93% had voted  

By comparison, in 1920, the year of the previous major Local Option Polls, it was estimated that 62 2% of around 868,850 of voters lodged their option, the "No License" ticket registering 40 3%, continuation of the existing numbers 52 9%, and perhaps surprisingly  the License Reduction Board's activities which were generally favoured, just 6 8% for a reduction in their local district

The License Reduction Board's work, first commenced in 1907, was nearly at an end

The Board's 1930 report claimed that in 1907 when it was formulated - remembering that the number of hotels had already been reduced by over one-third since the introduction of the 1885 Licensing Act - the number of hotels had been reduced from 3,507 (or roughly one per 360 people) to 1,814, or one per 974

Perhaps equally significant (although somewhat subjective in terms of police and community attitudes), the number of arrests for public drunkenness had dropped from 8 93 per 1000 to just 4 03 in 1930

As to the local figures, most of today's Darebin was split across three State electorates - Northcote, Heidelberg and Clifton Hill  

There were few surprises   

The number of female voters was somewhat higher than the State average, 52 9% as opposed to 51 6%, but of 28 polling booths in the three electorates (around ten of which did not relate to today's Darebin), just four returned more than a 50% "No" vote - predictably the leafy areas of Ivanhoe and Alphington, rather less so the Tyler Street school in Preston by a comparatively narrow margin and strongly bucking the trend in other areas of Preston; and Delbridge in Fitzroy, the area from the Edinburgh Gardens south-east to Queen's Parade

The Tyler Street State booth was the only one of 18 within Northcote and Preston to record a majority of "No License" votes)

No  : No Licenses

Yes : LRB Continuation

The Prince Alfred building, pictured mid 1980’s and largely unchanged today. The only alteration to the original building of the 1860s appears to be the shop-front on High street.

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