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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Newy’s iconic Star Hotel has a new custodian

It has its own Cold Chisel song and its history boasts a public riot that hit the news on the opposite side of the planet. 

Newcastle’s iconic The Star Hotel now has a new custodian.

Built in 1925, the current King Street site reopened last month with a fresh lick of paint and a new zest for live entertainment.

Licensee Rod Holloway and his business partner Peter Bradbury are hoping to play a vital role in the history of one of Newcastle’s once most talked about venues.

“I think a lot of people think of the riot when they think of The Star but we want people to come in and experience the food and entertainment.

“Yes it’s got an iconic history, which we can all have a giggle about, a bit of a laugh, it was what it was, but it’s no different to any other pub that has a history – it has great stories. 

“Enjoy the past and understand that’s not the day-to-day culture of the place.”

With many years experience in the hospitality industry, Holloway is returning to his first job after an eight year hiatus.

“It was time for a change for me,” he said. 

“This place has got a great history and it resonated with us.

“We’re hoping to return some of the hotel character to the Star.”

Having closed its doors for 12 months and undertaking extensive renovations, the 150-seat pub will soon re-launch a revamped menu.

“It was quite dark in here,” Holloway said. 

“We’ve opened it up a little bit and added all new furniture.

“The main difference is we’ll soon be opening up the outside area as well.

“We’re getting some outdoor furniture made up now and adding a few lights and then we’ll be able to block off the road and in the next couple of weeks we’ll launch our outdoor area.

“The Star Laneway we’ll call it.”

The Star Hotel once extended from King Street to Hunter Street and housed a live music venue, middle bar and lounge bar, catering for all walks of life and all sexualities.

The week it was due to close down in September 1979, the popular live music hub was the home of what is now synonymous with name.

Conflict happened after police moved in to disperse thousands of people who had gathered to mark the closure of the popular venue.

A pair of Newcastle filmmakers who released ‘Stories of Our Town’ documented the riot in a free documentary.

The Star Hotel has since been gentrified and now includes an apartment building, pub, eatery, 

“I believe we’re the third owners,” Holloway said.

Celebrating its cheeky history are included in the pair’s plans.

“We’re planning to get a big mural made up for the back wall to celebrate the pub’s history,” he said.

“It’ll be a mixture of old photos of Newcastle and the pub. 

“We probably won’t be getting as loud as the old days, given there’s the apartments nearby, but we’re hoping to get some soloists, duets, and theme days in the laneways.”

Newcastle historian Julie Keating mentioned The Star Hotel in her book ‘Hunter Street : the first hundred years”.

“The Star Inn Hotel was built in 1855 and the first licensee was Ewan Cameron,” she said.

“The land was purchased from the Australian Agricultural Company for 54 pounds.  

“Ewan’s son, Hugh, took over the licence in the 1880s and built extensive stables at the rear of the hotel. 

“As the main mode of transport at the time was horse driven, the extensive stables would have attracted visitors to the establishment. 

“The hotel continued to be operated by the family until the death of Hugh in 1921.”

The original  building, Ms Keating said, was demolished in 1910 and was replaced with a brick structure.  

“A major extension was undertaken in 1925 and this extended the hotel southwards into King Street.”

For Mr Holloway and Mr Bradbury, who’d played sport together in the past, the venture comes with exciting plans, including hints Jimmy Barnes might attend a reopening celebration.

“We’ve asked him,” Mr Holloway said. “Whether or not we’ve persuaded him to wander in the doors – only time will tell.”

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