As my mate and I sat at the Newtown Hotel tonight we pondered for a while the pub’s sexual orientation. For years it had been a legendary “gay” pub run by the very famous/infamous lesbian, Dawn O’Donnell. It was a fun pub that you could hang out with your mates and have a laugh. For example, memorably, at the end of 2006/beginning of 2007, the pub ran a uni-sex amateur striptease competition. Aside from one occasion where an older female stripper showed a little more than the young men in the front row would have liked, it was a fun, joyous competition that pretty much summed up the pub.
And then, three years ago, and with little warning, the hotel closed suddenly. In November 2007, I wrote the following…
Can you imagine the look on my face when I met my mate Graeme yesterday for a drink at the Newtown Hotel , only to discover it had been suddenly closed down? It had been a warm day in Sydney and we were both looking forward to the retro-music night they had recently introduced. On arrival, Graeme broke the bad news. Outside, there were a couple of bouncers keeping a close eye on those passing by, but not explaining why the bar was closed. When we peered through the windows, we were able to see some phones and computers stacked up, but noticed all of the spirits had been removed. Sitting on the footpath around the corner, a couple of the bar stuff told us they had arrived for their shift as usual, and that the reason for the closure had been a leasing dispute with the owners of the building. Nearby someone had erected a small tombstone.
It was about the same time that another famous “gay” pub in nearby Erskineville, The Imperial, closed also. Since then “the gays” have had no “official” place to go in the area. Most of the pubs in Newtown are gay friendly, and very mixed, but there’s been nowhere “official” if you get my meaning. But then suddenly recently The Imperial re-opened, and so too has The Newtown now.
But has it re-opened as a gay pub, a mixed pub, or something else altogether? The consensus on places like Same Same seems to be the hotel’s owners aren’t particularly targetting a gay clientele. But then you look around the bar and you’ll find there’s a fair number of gays amongst the customers. The gays seem to have staked a claim on their old territory, whether that’s what the owners want or not. So I was left wondering for quite some time until I walked outside and looked up and noticed the hotel is, once again, flying two rainbow flags. Oh, and a jolly roger. What’s that about? :)