Melbourne’s iconic John Curtin Hotel could be saved from demolition and protected on Victoria’s Heritage Register after two unions made a last-ditch bid to preserve a part of the state’s history.
The Victoria’s National Trust and the Victorian Trades Hall submitted a heritage nomination on Thursday which cited the pub’s significance to Victorian and Labor Party history, its strong association with the labour movement and its continuing role as a music venue.
The nomination also pointed out The Curtin’s longstanding significance as a safe space for First Nations communities over the years.
It hosted “Aboriginal band nights” in the 1980s and 90s which welcomed First Nations people at a time when racism was flagrant and excluding people from venues based on race was commonplace.
It was announced last month the Curtin would close when its lease expired in November after the owners of the 150-year-old building decided to sell. Without any legal protections, the new owners could do anything they wanted like bulldoze it and turn it into apartments.
If the Curtin were protected on the Victorian Heritage Register it could still be sold and used for any purpose, but the owners would be required to protect and maintain the property in line with its heritage values.
A heritage listing would basically make the property much less attractive to big apartment developers because they wouldn’t have carte blanche to do whatever they want to the land, they’d be bound by loads of legal restrictions. The unions hope that this might give buyers interested in preserving the pub more of a shot.
Bob Hawke would be turning in his grave at the news of the John Curtin Hotel, his old watering hole, shutting down.
A terrible loss for Melbourne. https://t.co/DscrJe8XZ1
— Callum Godde (@calgodde) February 15, 2022
Victorian Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari told The Age that the union, which was established the same year as the pub and right across the road, wouldn’t let the Curtin die.
“We don’t want it to be knocked down and frankly, we won’t let it,” he said.
The union had previously announced in February it was considering buying the property with the intent of maintaining the pub.
But with an asking price around $6 million, Hilakari said Trades Hall was not in a position to purchase the venue on its own and was hoping to get other unions to chip in.
He said on Thursday a heritage listing was a big step in the right direction to saving the beloved pub.
The nomination will be viewed by Heritage Victoria before it makes a recommendation to the Heritage Council.