The Star Hotel is without a doubt an icon of the Newcastle pub scene, if not the most infamous, but few really understand its true beginnings.
Originally built in 1885 by the Cameron Family to provide lodgings for the many construction workers who had come to Newcastle to help with the construction of the city and the burgeoning harbour precinct, simply dormitory style accommodation was built with the hotel as the central hub. Demand for temporary accommodation continued to grow over the decades until in the early 1920’s, The Cameron’s along with other local businessmen came together to build The Star Hotel as we remember it opening in 1925. The original façade of the building remains today with this date emblazoned into the building’s structure.
The Hotel spanned from Hunter Street right through to King Street and comprised a mix of bars and in excess of 140 rooms of accommodation upstairs, as well as the private showroom where in the hedonistic era of the 60’s and 70’s was the scene of many a risqué performances. Three bars spanned the property with the front bar to Hunter Street known as The Sailors Bar, The Middle Bar which was made somewhat famous by “Stella the Fella” and became a safe haven for the growing gay, lesbian and transgender community of the city.
But it was the Back Bar where all the action would happen! The hotel in the 70’s was the entertainment mecca of the city. The pub hosted live bands 7 days a week in the Back Bar with the stage located directly behind the bar and in the same location as where the current bar is today. Semi naked girls used to dance on the bar, $1.00 beers and mayhem was the norm, and The Star hosted many of Australia’s top bands and artists of the day including Benny and The Jets, DV8, Doug Parkinson, The Angles, Rose Tattoo, Gold Cadillac, The Radiators and of course Cold Chisel, right?
Well wrong! Cold Chisel never performed as The Star Hotel in their own right, but did get up on stage and play three songs one Saturday afternoon with the band The Heroes, who were the band that was playing the night the hotel closed on September 17, 1979.
During the 60’s and 70’s more pubs and clubs arrived on the scene in Newcastle and the then owners of many of the hotels in NSW decided to close the hotel with one weeks notice due to continued poor trading. So the publican of the time Don Graham decided to throw a closing party with free beer for all, the fuel to create a piece of Newcastle history.
Never to pass up a free beer, thousands of Novocastrians flocked to the pub to attend Don’s party. Estimates put the crowds as between 4,500 – 8,000 people, and as closing time loomed, 10pm in those days, the police decided it was time to shut up shop early. As The Heroes were aptly playing the song “The Star and the Slaughter” the police started pulling out mike leads, rattling mike stands of the band members and shut off the beer, which was the ultimate trigger as to what has become infamously know as “The Star Hotel Riot”.
Police numbers were strong that night in anticipation of the swelling crowd numbers, but nothing could prepare them for the revolt that night. The crowd fuelled with both alcohol and rage set about to take on the coppers and in the ensuring melee as least three police vehicles were overturned and torched in King Street, as well as an abundance of other damage to adjacent property. In the end only a little more than forty people were charged with offences relating to the events of that night.
So here we are nearly 40 years on and the new Star Hotel bears no resemblance to the old hotel, but will now return to its live music roots and invite you to revisit the pictorial history adorned on the walls inside the hotel.
– Appearance is to be neat, tidy and respectable for all genders - at all time.
– No heavily branded fighting clothing (incl; Tapout, OMCG, Dickies, UNIT etc.)
– No baggy or ill-fitting clothing
– No offensive or intimidating tattoos
– No beach thongs/flip-flops or ugg boots
– No work boots / steel caps and work related attire (eg; high-vis, security uniforms etc) are permitted onsite after 8pm, all trading hours..
– No patrons under the age of 18 are permitted in the venue after 9.00pm Tuesday – Thursday, and 8.30pm Friday – Sunday.
Door staff, Security, Hotel Management and the Licensee reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone wearing attire deemed unsuitable into the venue.
Star Hotel Newcastle Staff & Management comply with all safe RSA practices onsite.