Errol St’s Town Hall Hotel
The Town Hall Hotel was ordered to close its doors in 1904 because of a Liquor Licensing Board assessment of all the pubs in North Melbourne. Somehow, and there is no record of how this occurred, the pub survived and today it is one of the area’s most popular drinking spots.
Thomas Smith, a storekeeper living at 21 Errol St, applied for a licence so that he could make his home into a hotel. The licence was granted, and the Errol Hotel opened on August 31, 1872. It was a brick building with 10 rooms. As was the case with many North Melbourne hotels, it had many changes of owner, and in 1873 it was owned by Laetita Quinlan. Women licensees were particularly common at the time. Another owner of the hotel, this time in the 1950s, was Lou Richards, the well-known footballer.
The change of name to the Town Hall Hotel in 1874 was probably a reflection of the proprietor’s eagerness to keep up with the times. Although there had been talk in that year of replacing the existing brick town hall with something more lavish and imposing, the new building did not actually happen until 1876.
One of the reasons why the Town Hall Hotel was ordered to close was its proximity to many others. Indeed, when it was opened in 1872 there were 14 pubs within easy staggering distance. The map shows the location of the nearby hotels, listing those closed before 1902, those which were ordered to close and those allowed to remain.
Two of these hotels, the Butchers Arms and the Empire, had closed by 1902, the year in which local residents voted on the number of pubs that they wished to be retained in the area (the Local Option Poll). The local community voted for 37 pubs to be closed and for 20 to remain.
The Licensing Board conducted a survey of the 57 hotels in the Flemington Rd Division and decided, using criteria such as standards of cleanliness and how the pub was run, as well as proximity to other pubs, which ones should be closed.
Compensation was paid to those that went out of business. Of the 14 pubs clustered around Errol St, the board recommended that only the Limerick Arms, the Court House, the Eldorado, the George and the Three Crowns (which was in a different licensing area anyway) should remain.
There were alterations to the Town Hall Hotel in 1942 and 1963, but the details of these are not known. In 1982 Alf and Gianna Quattrocchi leased the hotel from Carlton and United Breweries and Gianna worked there for around two years. Later Alf bought the freehold from the brewery but sold it shortly afterwards.
During the years the Quattrocchis owned the pub they made substantial alterations.
According to Gianna, the end of the “six o’clock swill” in 1966 meant that pubs had to change their style and their clientele if they were to survive. The front of the building housed a bottle shop, which was removed, and the back was completely remodelled. They built a lounge garden and installed a barbecue where customers could cook their own meat. They also introduced a more upmarket cuisine instead of the usual counter meals. The barbecue option no longer exists but the lounge garden remains.
Jonathan Collin bought the pub in June 1999. Over the past 22 years it has gained a reputation for good food and a convivial atmosphere. Johnny describes it as a classic local pub and it is a favourite meeting place for locals. It hosts trivia on Tuesdays and plays music at the weekend.
It survived five months of lockdown and was able to expand its seating capacity by placing tables in the side laneway. This was in line with the state government and local council’s encouragement of outdoor dining.
Johnny’s sister, Levaun Vaughan, worked in the dining room and has taken my order many times and poured me many a merlot. She was always cheerful and helpful, and it was a shock when she died suddenly a couple of months ago from a stroke. She is missed •