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The missing heart of Canberra

By beejay76 - 22 October 2010 64

beer bulb

I’m a Canberran. I’m relatively new to Canberra, but in the short time I’ve been here I’ve fallen in love with it. Like most Sydneysiders, I always thought Canberra was dull, bland, boring, insipid.

But the real Canberra is wonderful! In a few short years we have enjoyed the wonderful cultural events that Canberra offers, and availed ourselves of many of the amazing outdoor events, venues and facilities, as well. We’ve visited so many National thises and Capital thats, I’ve lost track.

All of these things have been, for the most part, free or close to. They’ve also been easy to get to. Perhaps a bus ride or a short drive. Even the drive isn’t stressful. ACT drivers are courteous and sensible, as a rule.

We’ve spent a lot of time on the fabulous network of cycling/ running tracks around town and have massively increased our fitness. So I am an out-an-out Canberra convert. I love it.

But there is one part of Canberra that doesn’t stack up at all. Drinking.

Now, this is a serious issue. This is our national capital we’re talking about. Drinking is a major part of Australian culture! We have the War Memorial to recognise our warrior culture. We have the National museum to celebrate our artistic heritage. There’s the National museum to commemorate our cultural diversity. The National Botanic Gardens preserves our flora and the network of parks and reserves allows our fauna to flourish. But who’s looking after the drinking?

Now I’m not suggesting we need a National Alcohol Museum, but a decentralised network of venues that will allow people to engage in this most Australian of pastimes in their local area. These facilities are well established in other Australian cities. In Sydney, for example, although people may have to sit in traffic for four hours to visit their local hardware shop, they can always walk to the pub afterwards to recuperate. There’s at least one pub in every suburb, with many sporting multiple facilities. In places like Balmain or Darlinghurst, there’s a pub for every four residents.

I live in the north of Canberra, and we don’t have a single pub. This is absolutely scandalous. There’s around 50,000 people in the Gungahlin region, and not a single proper pub.

Real pubs are local. Real pubs are live music. Real pubs don’t have poker machines. Real pubs have beer gardens so you can get sunburned and drunk at the same time.  This is what is really lacking at the heart of Canberra. Pubs: sometimes dirty, occasionally dangerous, often friendly and always loud.

We do have a club or two. That’s not the proper way to celebrate Australian drinking culture. Clubs are bland. The décor is bland airport-chic. The music, also, is bland airport-chic. The beers are ordinary, the food is plain. There is no risky décor, no risky new music, no risky beers and no risky food. Apart from the pokies and the drink-drivers, clubs are strictly for the risk-averse. This, I dare suggest, is unAustralian!

So as Australia’s capital, we owe it to the nation to begin a major program of pub-building. One proper pub per suburb by 2020! At least two live music venues per major township! Vomit-coloured carpet by legislation! It’s our heritage. Let’s look after it.

[ED – I will note that the inner north and south both have a watering hole at nearly every local shops]


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64 Responses to
The missing heart of Canberra
Rollersk8r 11:57 am 22 Oct 10

Completely agree. Has to do with architecture, urban sprawl and clubs, in my opinion. We don’t have those big old buildings, like most other capitals, where you’re likely to find a charming old pub.

Suburbs are too thinly populated for a pub on every corner. And if there is a small venue in your suburb it’s likely to be part of the the Southern Cross Club, Vikings etc. They own just about everything in Canberra and just aren’t my kind of place.

Surprised nobody has mentioned the Wig and Pen. While I generally think it’s a good thing we have a boutique venue making their own beer etc, it’s a dingy little place, staffed by wankers. I took a friend there, who copped foul-mouthed abuse from the barman for saying he usually drank VB. Don’t upset the delicate genius and his superior product!

Diggety 11:55 am 22 Oct 10

But, yeah. +1 to pokies preventing/killing any good pub atmosphere.

Diggety 11:54 am 22 Oct 10

I’ve been breath tested on a push bike… He wanted to take me in! “Straight home young man, and leave the bike where you found it.”

andym 11:53 am 22 Oct 10

Yeah we have taverns and inns but no pubs. I suspect this harks back to Canberra’s early days when it was a dry town?

astrojax 11:51 am 22 Oct 10

you don’t know the wig and pen, then? superb beers, all made in the shop – mmmmm…

Holden Caulfield 11:50 am 22 Oct 10

I liked this bit the best… “ACT drivers are courteous and sensible, as a rule.”

Seems to be in contrast with the popular view on RA!

random 11:48 am 22 Oct 10

johnboy said :

or buy a bike.

Drunk riding is dangerous and, if done on a public street, as illegal as drunk driving. Better to walk.

Woody Mann-Caruso 11:37 am 22 Oct 10

In Sydney…they can always walk to the pub afterwards to recuperate

Oh, bullsh*t. The nearest ‘pub’ to my brother’s house in Sydney is almost 5km away, and it looks exactly like every club in Canberra.

johnboy 11:05 am 22 Oct 10

or buy a bike.

Jungle Jim 10:54 am 22 Oct 10

The problem is Canberra’s suburban layout. There’s a local tavern in Wanniassa and while it doesn’t have a real ‘pub’ feel, it’s still a local suburban watering hole. Only thing is, for most Wanniassans, it’s well out of walking distance.

I can just imagine the trouble I could get into walking from the Wanniassa Tavern, across the ovals and down Wheeler Crescent after a skin-ful late one night.

I guess that, in Canberra, if you want to be able to walk to a local watering hole, you need to take that into account when you’re buying a property.

GBT 10:22 am 22 Oct 10

Maybe instead of complaining about a lack of drinking establishments particularly in Gungahlin, as so many on this site have, they should recognise there’s a gap in the market and do something about it. Just a thought….

neanderthalsis 10:19 am 22 Oct 10

Having grown up in a town where there are 22 pubs within 1km of the town centre, I am inclined to agree. We do have some hidden gems that almost fit the pub mould, and a few “bars” hidden in strip shops but not the abundance of drinking establishments evident in other cities.

Thumper 10:18 am 22 Oct 10

I totally agree with everything the OP has said.

New Yeah 10:03 am 22 Oct 10

Good luck with vomit coloured carpet. Unfortunately that seems to have be being phased out of Canberra’s pubs as new/renovated pubs tend to be ‘airport-chic’. O’Neils in Dickson is ok, kinda like going to the Whitewood Warehouse for a beer.

Dagget66 9:54 am 22 Oct 10

There’s the George Harcourt, and I think there is still a pub at Goldcreek Village ?
Thats pretty close by to Gungahlin, maybe a lenghty stagger though …
You may need a designated driver .

No pokies is a good thing 🙂
There should be more of it .

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