Rozelle’s an area renowned for several reasons: it’s the gateway to Balmain, there are plenty of former mental patients roaming the streets, and it plays host each weekend to fantastic markets. Darling Street is peppered with great restaurants and op shops, but since the suburb isn’t as working class as it once was, not all of these are able to stay afloat. Case in point: La Bettola, an Italian seafood restaurant. The place gets big points for having that big fish mounted above the building, and I’d like to think he fell off on the day they closed their doors for good. Why did it close?
Gee, that fellow at the top wasn’t very happy, was he? Perhaps they closed in November 2008 and he just didn’t realise.
Prior to its life as La Bettola, this was a pub dating back to the 1920s. Rozelle’s pub scene dwindled once the area became less industrial – with a lack of workers needing to quench their thirst at the end of a hard day, the business dried up, so to speak. One other interesting footnote from the life of this building: in 1944, a time when lotto winner addresses were still made public much to the delight of extortionists everywhere, Mrs. P. Nolan and her aptly named “Lucky Last” lottery syndicate won fourth prize in the week’s lotto draw.
With foresight like that, you think she would have done better.
The owners of the East Village Hotel in Darlinghurst have tried their best to reinvent the place as a hip, relaxed pub in the middle of a trendy area, but it’s hard to miss the hotel’s old name – the Tradesman’s Arms – at the top. These days it’s hard to imagine tradesmen’s arms anywhere near this place, unless it’s to subject the pub’s period interiors to another refit.
Speaking of period, the Tradesman’s Arms dates back to 1918, and during its lifetime was known as the ‘Bloodhouse’, due to the extreme violence often on show within. It’s creepy to think that there was a pub in the Darlinghurst-Kings Cross area that stood out for its violence; nowadays it’d probably be considered pretty tame. In a time when tradesmen were wise to arm themselves with razor blades, this place was a favourite watering hole of Sydney underworld figure Tilly Devine, which should absolutely not come as a recommendation. No wonder they changed its name.
Perched at the intersection of Chalmers and Cleveland Streets are a variety of notable buildings: the old Australia Post headquarters; the colonial era Cleveland Street Public School; that ancient backpackers hostel. The odd one out is this building, which has sat unused and for lease until very recently, when part of it was turned into a greengrocer. The other part still sits dormant, waiting for another chance at life.
Around the side we can see that it was for sale long ago. So old is the sale that the sold stickers have become partially transparent. The sign to the right has been painted over along with the rest of the building, and still myriad signs and lettering can be seen underneath the coat, some of which seems to suggest the place had a restaurant…but that’s not the lettering we’re interested in.
At some point in the past, this place was Bookers [sic] Night Spot, the only pub or club I could find attributed to this address. Half price drinks were on sale between 10pm-11:30pm. It featured two floors, and pool tables. Not the most dynamic attributes a night spot could have, but aside from the weak offerings it’s unclear when or why the club closed. The competition from the pubs down near Central Station or up at Crown Street might have played a part, and that the area is much more gentrified than ever. It’s easy to imagine this may have been yet another corner pub once, serving thirsty shift workers from Australia Post, or a tram stop on what was once a busy corner for the light rail.
ATHENIAN UPDATE: As reader Luke says, this location was once the Athena Greek nightclub/Restaurant. The only remnant of this today is the ironwork affixed over the east window:
Believe it or not, this dump was once D.G.R. Sayburn, an agent of Beale & Co, ‘the largest piano manufacturers in the British Empire’. I guess that’s why the door is extra wide. If I had to speculate (and when don’t I), judging by the Victoria Bitter logo beneath the busted sign it looks to me like this was the bottle shop for the neighbouring Ritz Hotel (which itself has a rich history) sometime in the late 80s-early 90s.
After that, this was the Bead Company of Australia. That’s right – if you were in Broome or Launceston and you needed beads, you had to go through these mugs. These days it’s returned to its bottle shop state (Hurstville City Cellar – mustn’t they be proud), making you wonder if being a nation’s bead supplier was the apex of the building’s life, and will it now continue to regress until it’s once again a piano shop.