Publicans have expressed concern about the potential heritage listing of 27 pubs in Sydney’s Inner West.
On 27 October, the Inner West Council announced the results of a vote to list 27 pubs on the heritage register. The vote passed unanimously, and Council released a statement suggesting that pubs with ‘heritage significance may soon be permanently protected’.
Inner West Mayor, Darcy Byrne, believes the move will help to retain the cultural character of the area.
“Our pubs are community institutions, many of which have been serving local patrons for more than a century,” Mayor Byrne said.
“It’s time for new heritage protections to make sure that our Inner West pub culture is still here for another 100 years to come.”
“By giving them heritage protection, it means not only must the façades of the buildings be maintained, so too must interior aspects like the bars and the other features which identify them as pubs,” Byrne continued.
“With heritage listing we will make it clear to property interests that these institutions cannot be knocked over for residential developments.”
However, while the Council is eager to celebrate the resolution as a win for Sydney’s pubs, the move has been met with a certain degree of scorn from some Inner West publicans.
These operators decried a lack of communication prior to the vote, and outlined concerns about the curtailing of future renovations and development.
Ray Daniel, venue manager at Websters Bar, Newtown, one of the venues slated to be listed told Australian Hotelier: “Basically we had no idea and heard nothing until we saw it on social media.”
It was a similar message from veteran hotelier Richard Wynne, owner of the Cat and Fiddle Hotel in Balmain.
Wynne said that he was not aware of the potential listing until a customer in the pub (a designer and architect) told the hotelier about it.
“He contacted me and said there were pubs being heritage listed and had noted that the council had spoken to owners and stakeholders about their intention to list the pub on the heritage register – no such consultation took place with me,” Wynne said.
According to the Council’s statement, the heritage protections will apply to the interior of the building as well.
‘There is no legal avenue to prevent the owner from changing the use,’ the statement reads.
‘Protection of the front bar and interior fabric will however make it clear to pub owners and prospective purchasers that they will be required to keep the built form of the pub. Conversion to another hospitality use such as a restaurant or wine bar or other use would be a possible alternative the property owner could pursue but the heritage elements of the building must be preserved.’ [Ed’s note: Italics applied by Council]
It’s this aspect that especially worries Wynne.
“It’s a complete roadblock for development. Now I’m all about looking after nice old buildings and keeping them intact,” Wynne says.
“We’ve got another beautiful pub up in Leura in the Blue Mountains and it was built in 1903 – it’s a magnificent property and you’ve got to be considerate and passionate about keeping it in the manner it was built, and that’s fine.
“If we wanted to put an extension on that property, or do some work, we’ve got to go through the Council’s attitude and approach to it, and it’s very, very difficult when it’s heritage listed.”
Wynne gives an example of when heritage requirements are in conflict with current legal requirements.
“We have a balcony up on our property and it’s in need of repair. So we’ve gone to the Council and the Council has said to us ‘We’d like it restored to the way it was built in 1903.’
“The problem with that is that the balustrade is not of BCA [Building Code of Australia] height limit. To bring it up to BCA compliance, the balustrade should be a certain height for safety,” Wynne explains.
“Heritage don’t care, heritage want to build the way it was in 1903, even though it doesn’t comply with safety regulations – so who’s right here, the basic Building Code of Australia when it comes down to compliance for safety, or heritage?”
Of particular consternation for publicans is a line in the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section of the Council’s statement, which suggests that when it comes to consultation prior to the final listing, ‘Property owners will be able to make submissions and, if they choose, to articulate why their pub does not have sufficient heritage status to be listed.’
It appears that the onus will be on pub owners and operators to explain why their venues are not historic – in order to prevent listing.
AHA suggests council misguided
Some of Wynne’s worries are reflected by AHA NSW director of liquor and gaming, John Green, who spoke to Australian Hotelier about this matter.
“I’m sure council’s proposal might be well intentioned and designed to support pubs, but the actual reality could see venues prevented from carrying out necessary renovations and refurbishments – or see costs for any works skyrocket,” Green said.
Green also said his organisation was aware of the seeming absence of contact between the local authority, and the publicans involved.
“We are particularly concerned with the apparent lack of consultation and communication with the owners and hoteliers involved here.
“We agree, many of the Inner West’s pubs are iconic, but this proposal may actually see these pubs close if their building owners can’t undertake essential renovations,” Green continued.
“Many hoteliers are concerned that should their beloved venue be heritage-listed it will impact heavily on not only the building’s value and their hard work and investment, but also create significant impediments to renovations and refurbishments,” Green concluded.
Inner West Council response
Australian Hotelier also contacted representatives of the Inner West Council to hear their response to the issues raised by publicans.
“The Council resolution is the start of the consultation period,” a Council spokesperson said.
“Each pub will be consulted individually, 31 pubs in the Inner West are already heritage listed and the 27 pubs in this round were recommended by respected heritage consultants GML Heritage.”
“The Inner West’s pub culture is unique in Greater Sydney and Council wants it protected for the next hundred years.”
A full list of the 27 pubs recommended for listing can be found below:
- Annandale Hotel, Annandale
- North Annandale Hotel, Annandale
- Unity Hall Hotel, Balmain
- The Balmain Hotel, Balmain
- Dick’s Hotel, Balmain
- Cat & Fiddle Hotel, Balmain
- Town Hall Hotel, Balmain
- Cricketers Arms Hotel, Balmain
- East Village Hotel, Balmain East
- The Milestone Hotel, Leichhardt
- Vic on the Park Hotel, Marrickville
- The Royal Exchange Hotel, Marrickville
- Websters Bar, Newtown
- Kelly’s on King, Newtown
- Sandringham Hotel (former), Newtown
- Carlisle Castle Hotel, Newtown
- Livingstone Hotel, Petersham
- Bridge Hotel, Rozelle
- The Welcome Hotel, Rozelle
- 3 Weeds Hotel, Rozelle
- Sackville Hotel, Rozelle
- Garry Owen Hotel, Rozelle
- Native Rose Hotel, Rozelle
- Lewisham Hotel, Lewisham
- Warren View Hotel, Enmore
- Duke of Enmore Hotel, Enmore
- Queens Hotel, Enmore