Category Archives: pubs

TAB/Nothing – Homebush, NSW

Oh no! The Homebush TAB…it’s closed! It’s moved! However will I get my bet on now? I-eh?

The TAB moved next door. To the Horse & Jockey Hotel. Which probably already had a TAB. The part I like is how specific the sign in the TAB is about exactly when it will close, but the part I don’t like is how there are people out there to whom that would have mattered dearly.

The Plaza Theatre/Maxy’s Roller City/Planet Hollywood/McDonald’s – Sydney, NSW

Image courtesy Simon Fieldhouse.

Sydney’s Plaza Theatre was once one of many elegant cinemas and theatres lining George Street’s entertainment strip. Like many cinemas, its business was damaged by the advent of television, and today it has the distinction of being arguably the world’s fanciest McDonald’s.

McDonald’s George Street interior, 2012.

Built for Hoyts in 1930, the Plaza sat alongside venues such as the Century Theatre (which became an indoor BMX track in what could only have been the 80s) and the Crystal Palace Arcade.

Erecting the neon sign, The Plaza Theatre, 1935. Image courtesy State Library of NSW.

Hoyts Plaza Theatre, 1966. Image courtesy City of Sydney Archives.

Despite many of its contemporaries being bulldozed around it, the Plaza stood firm until 1977, when it was closed as a cinema and reopened as Maxy’s, a disco skating rink. The changing face of entertainment.

The Plaza as Maxy’s, 1983. Image courtesy Helen Grant/Sydney Cinema Flashbacks.

Surprisingly, the idea of a disco roller rink wasn’t fashionable for long, and the Plaza played host to Mickey D’s and video arcades for most of the 1980s.

Planet Hollywood Sydney, 1996. Image courtesy Steve Newbury.

The Plaza’s northern end was once again immersed in the world of cinema in 1995 when the Stallone-Schwarzenegger-Willis-Moore joint Planet Hollywood came to Sydney, establishing itself in the former arcade. According to this photo taken in 1996, PH shared its space with Brashs, another 90s success story. By 1999, both ventures would be out of business.

Today, some lazy entrepreneur has taken the already-tacky Planet Hollywood aesthetic and adapted it into the Star Bar, another of modern George Street’s entertainment offerings. Not sure how many stars you’d see here these days. The Plaza in its present state is yet another example of Sydney trying to disguise the brazen pimping of itself to the lowest bidder by hiding behind facades of the past. If it looks vintage, it seems that much more respectable. What isn’t considered is that drunken eyes can’t appreciate all the lovingly preserved heritage fronts, and as George Street continues to slide into the gutter, the death grip it has on these buildings only serves to drag their illustrious reputations and history down with it.

STAR STUDDED UPDATE: Reader Cameron says: “Star Bar was originally created by Planet Hollywood to replace Brashs when it failed which had the same owner, Star Bar was created so Planet Hollywood could profit from gambling without tarnishing its family image. The two coexisted for a while. A bizarre fact, this restaurant was a real cash cow and extremely profitable when it closed, a case of embezzlement I believe. The real crime there was the removal of the original cinemas Spanish themed ceiling for the extra headroom and replaced with a high blue ceiling. The Star Bar is now run by the same group that has the even tackier Shark Bar! now with no sharks……”

Sounds like the sharks haven’t left at all, actually. It’s almost inconceivable that shady types would be running places like this (especially the Shark Bar), but there you go. Thanks, Cameron!

Dianetics Volcano/Video Billboard – George Street, Sydney NSW

On a stormy night in 1996, the Church of Scientology made its mark on the George Street entertainment strip in the form of Sydney’s most bizarre advertising initiative. The site, on the east side of George Street, was formerly the Roma Complex; a row of shops including the Roma cinema torn down in the early 1990s to make way for the current setup. Now comprised of a variety of smaller shops, the address is most notable for including the Metro Theatre, a popular music venue, and as the former home of Galaxy World, a video arcade.

Someone in the Church of Scientology saw an opportunity to educate the people of George Street in the ways of Xenu et. al., and in mid-1996 a giant illuminated volcano facade was erected above Galaxy World, with a giant video screen at the peak. The screen played commercials for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics over and over and over as smoke burst from the volcano, while testing centre was established nearby so that anyone interested in the ad could have their situation evaluated by the experts. What had been originally intended was that the screen would be directly used by the Church of Scientology to advertise the religion/cult, but after that proposal was denied by the Sydney City Council, a compromise was reached in the form of the Dianetics ads. Celebrity Scientologists Kate Ceberano and Nancy Cartwright appeared at the unveiling, which was forced inside due to the thunderstorm.

George Street Volcano, 1996. Image courtesy suburbia.net.

After just a few months, the brightly coloured volcano had faded, and so had the public’s compulsion to humour the Church of Scientology. Then-Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor offered to pull the volcano down as early as November 1996. At some time in 2000, long after the advertisements had stopped erupting, the facade caught fire, and remained in its burnt state for nearly a year afterward. When the volcano screen was first erected, it was agreed that it would only be up for six years, but here we are in 2012 and although the volcano is gone, the screen and an ugly facade remain. It’s a surprise it’s still there, given Sydney City Council’s tendency to overhaul all things George Street every couple of years.

Turn around, you fools. George Street, 1998. Image courtesy Edmund Cheng.

Turn around, you fools. George Street, 1998. Image courtesy Edmund Cheng.

Speaking of erections and eruptions, a few enterprising young scallywags took the obvious opportunity to broadcast porn through the screen for a prank at some point in the late 1990s, and given that’s the least creepy thing the setup was ever used for, that’s a good place to end this article.

PS. Oh, the 24hr Bar Ace advertised alongside the volcano isn’t there anymore either. It’s two Japanese restaurants now.

Bank of Australasia/3 Wise Monkeys – Sydney, NSW

The Bank of Australasia first moved into this address in 1879, establishing their ‘Southern Sydney’ branch in a rented building. The current building was erected in 1886, but remained under the ownership of the Estate of a James Powell until 1902, when the BOA suddenly remembered it was a bank and could take any property it wanted. It bought out the site, which remained a bank until 1998. The Bank of Australasia became a part of the ANZ in 1951, and rebranded this site as an ANZ bank in 1970.

Although the interiors have been refurbished, the exterior of the building is in remarkably good condition considering what the site is now – the 3 Wise Monkeys pub. Established in 2000, the 3 Wise Monkeys has a reputation as a live music venue and as a place where wisdom is not on tap. Of all the places in Sydney to not want to be seeing, hearing or speaking evil, George Street is probably at the top of the list.

Hurstville United Sports Club/nothing – Hurstville, NSW

On the outside, it looks like an ordinary 80s-style sports club. The door is perfectly positioned in front of a busy main road for when drunks stumble out at the end of a night, clueless as to where they are or how much cars hurt.

Unfortunately for fans of empty buildings, the outside is as close a look as we’re gonna get. The Hurstville United Sports Club has moved, leaving the shell of its former home behind as it establishes a new pokie storage room at South Hurstville under the shorter, trendier and more abstract name ‘Club Hurstville Sports’. One can only imagine the third iteration will be titled ‘Hurstclub Sportsville’.

The most notable feature of this old building is the addition of what appears to be the world’s biggest wasp nest in this window. Or second biggest, in case the wasps moved to South Hurstville too.