The loss of an icon
At first I thought the gay rumour mill was going into overdrive. I couldn’t believe the Newtown Hotel was to be closed for good.
It was Friday and I had just hosted a very busy crab racing event the Wednesday prior. Surely someone had their wires crossed?
After dozens of text messages and at least as many phone calls I got the confirmation I was dreading – “Holy shit, it’s true.”
And I was not the only one oblivious to the impending closure – not even the staff and management knew that within 24 hours they would be without a job.
After a brief chat to one of the Newtown Hotel’s management team late Friday night I was told they were expecting the “final word” the next day.
“We are all a little shell-shocked but what can we do?” I was told.
There may be some of you out there thinking, “Who cares, it is just another pub,” but after years of working at the venue I can honestly say the Newtown Hotel was so much more than that.
Each week I would walk in for crab racing to be met by a smile from whoever was behind the bar. The staff, as many patrons would be aware, welcomed me into their family with open arms.
I remember many years “BD” (before drag), when I slipped for my first time ever into the Newtown Hotel. I shivered with nerves. But after some encouraging words from my flatmate I walked inside and didn’t come back out until I had danced for several hours, met lots of new people and witnessed the music stop and the lights go up after last drinks.
I am sure there are many of us with stories like this. That’s why losing the Newtown Hotel is more than just losing another pub.
And with the Imperial still under renovation – and likely to remain so until some time early next year – the inner west has been left without a gay venue for the first time in years.
What next? I have heard there are plans to build apartments on the site of the Taxi Club. The car park has already been sold for this purpose and I have heard it is only a matter of time before the Club meets the same fate.
The loss of the Newtown and venues like it eats away at the heart and soul of our diverse and rich community.
It is not just a pub – it is a home, a place to meet and be merry, a venue that raised thousands upon thousands of dollars over the years for charities like The Luncheon Club. Who will step up to raise that money now?
While we could never protect the Newtown from the tragic way it has been ripped from us, we can protect those venues that are still open in the inner west.
There’s still Mr Mary’s in Redfern, the Sly Fox in Enmore and Wednesday nights at The Bank Hotel. It is up to us not to let them fade into the background.