Melbourne’s John Curtin Hotel to be protected from demolition with historic green ban

First opened in 1859, the Curtin has long remained one of Australia’s most crucial live music venues

The John Curtin Hotel, an iconic Melbourne watering hole and music venue – famously beloved by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke – is set to be protected from demolition by a green ban from the Building Industry Group (BIG).

The Curtin’s closure was announced back in February, when the 150-year-old building was sold to offshore developers. In a post shared to the venue’s Facebook page, owners said the building was most likely destined to be demolished for property development, with their lease expiring in November. The move was widely derided by Melburnians, including Greens MP Adam Bandt and Hawke’s daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke.

A green ban on the property was announced by the BIG yesterday (April 28), formally prohibiting the Curtin’s new owners from destroying the building. Green bans, popularised by Australian trade unions (such as the Builders Labourers Federation) in the 1970s, have saved some of Melbourne’s most legendary institutions from being torn down. Among them are the Queen Victoria Market, the Regent Theatre and Flinders Street Station.

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In a statement shared with the news, Nicholas Reece – Deputy Lord Mayor for the City of Melbourne – said: “It is so important that we protect our heritage pubs and live music venues – not just because they are important heritage buildings, but because of their irreplaceable social and cultural value.”

Reece went on to say that his board has “endorsed interim ‘significant’ heritage protection for The Curtin Hotel, to help ensure it receives the strongest possible level of protection in any redevelopment application”. The venue’s new owners will still be allowed to submit proposals for redevelopment of its site, but these, Reece said, “will be considered extremely carefully by Councillors”.

Outlining their reason for the green ban’s implementation, Simon Ambrose – CEO of the National Trust of Australia’s Victorian arm – said the body’s aim “is to ensure that [the Curtin] remains a pub and live music venue, and doesn’t become a facade with a block of apartments behind it”.

Music Australia CEO Simone Schinkel spoke highly of the Curtin, asserting its significance in Melbourne’s live music scene. “Melbourne is the live music capital of the world,” he said, “which is specifically calculated based on how many live music venues we have per capita.

“These places of live music obviously showcase our talent, but they also build community solidarity, give rise to new voices, celebrate who we are and show us what we can become. I really hope that what we are to become is a stronger live music state, one that honours our history and realises the value and important cultural contributions made by places like the Curtin.”

Schinkel’s sentiment was shared by Adam Portelli – Regional Director for the Victoria and Tasmania, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance – who added: “The Curtin has a long and strong connection with Melbourne’s arts, entertainment and media industries through its role as one of the city’s most important music venues, but also in earlier days as a watering hole for journalists who would often score a political scoop over a few cold ales.

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“This pub is part of our city’s fabric and must be protected and preserved. Green bans have saved some of Melbourne’s most important buildings in the past and it is time for all Victorians who care about our heritage to stand together again to prevent the Curtin from being demolished.”

First opened in 1859, The John Curtin Hotel has long remained one of Australia’s most crucial live entertainment venues. In the ‘80s, for example, Alf Bamblett – frontman for seminal Indigenous rock outfit Stray Blacks – reneged against the racism fervent in the burgeoning pub-rock scene by hosting a fortnightly event at the Curtin, which showcased up-and-coming Indigenous artists.

Over the years, other high-profile names to take to the Curtin’s stage have included Gang Of Four, Girlpool, Tex Perkins, Magic Dirt, Regurgitator, Amyl And The Sniffers, The Libertines, Japanese Breakfast, The Lemon Twigs, Car Seat Headrest, Screamfeeder, Camp Cope, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Royal Headache and Frightened Rabbit.

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