Four Legends Complete 32 Year-Long Pub Crawl Of Every Bar In Melbourne

The best laid plans are thought up at the pub. The kind of ones that send you scrambling for a pen from behind the bar so you can scribble it down on a beer-soaked coaster to jolt the memory in the morning. The ones fuelled by little more than free-flowing jugs and boundless ambition.

Often outlandish. Frequently improbable, sometimes impossible. And more often than not a logistical nightmare at their very core. Great pub ideas come and go like the rising and setting of the sun. Perhaps for worse, most likely for better, very few survive the hangover, and even fewer are seen through to full fruition.
That just makes the ones that actually do all the more special.
Back in the early 1980s, four friends facing the fearsome prospect of their friendship splintering post-Teachers College devised a novel plan of maintaining frequent familiarity.
Whilst supervising a student exam, one of them – Stuart McArthur – thumbed his way through the 1983 Yellow Pages, and proceeded to write out a list of every pub in Melbourne that existed at the time.
All four-hundred and seventy six of them.
The plan was simple – McArthur, along with Llewella Bates, Tim Dorgan, and Mick Stevens – would meet over the coming weeks, months, and years. And together they work methodically, deliberately, work their way through each and every entry on the list.
There were rules, as every great experiment needs.
  • A pub was not a pub unless it had a bottle shop attached to it. In those days, this was common.
  • A pub was not a pub unless it had seating inside for drinkers.
  • A pub was not a pub unless it was open to the public, not a private club.
  • Only one drink per pub.
Meticulous notes were taken to document the attendance at each establishment, and bar staff had to sign off on each visit to verify.
October 15th, 1983 at the Cricketers Arms in Port Melbourne, the crawl began; winding its way through inner Melbourne at first, before spreading to the outer suburbs.
As the years began ticking away, some of the pubs on the original list closed for business. In each case, if the group arrived at a closed pub that met their criteria in 1983, they would drink a stubby on the footpath outside it and document the occasion.
As time passes and people grow, the group began to drift apart, and the crawl slowly found itself being abandoned.
In 1989, 5 years after they began, the crawl came to a halt – with McArthur and Stevens on 468 pubs, just eight short of their goal. Life, love, family had all taken a higher priority.
The crawl, and its accompanying documented book – that still exists, and runs to some 70-odd hand scribbled pages – lay dormant for 26 years.
But a pub crawl undertaken by McArthur’s son – by his old man’s standards, a paltry effort at “two or three” – reignited the spark of the original idea. And thus McArthur gathered the group back together to finish what they started 32 years before.
On Saturday, now with a large group of followers in tow, the gang of four made good on the list, ticking off the last eight entries – all of which happened to be in Carlton.
It started at The Great Northern and The Kent on Rathdowne Street, then The Brandon Hotel on Station. It moved on to the castle-like Dan O’Connell on picturesque Canning Street, and then back to Rathdowne for The Beaufort. The corner was turned for the Shaw Davey Slum (in 1983, known as The Stewart) on the corner of Elgin and Drummond, and then across the road to The Astor (formerly Percy’s Bar) at Lygon.
Before finally, 32 years later, pub number four hundred and seventy six was ticked, at their old favourite haunt, Cardigan Street institution The Clyde.
One beer at each, all signed off on. A three decade book finally closed.
A hair-brained, totally ridiculous idea, thought up at a pub, finally and fully realised three decades later.
Improbable, impossible, and totally, ridiculously, magnificently outlandish it may have been. But as McArthur put it:

“We had an idea, and we’re finally honouring it. Even a stupid idea has to be honoured.”

Could not possibly agree more.

Cheers, legends.
via The Age.