Pubs in Australia: Traditional vs Modern

I’ve written quite a few posts about pubs in Australia, as well as posts about the cost of beers, wines, and I’ve also talked about beer measures.

In a post called Sunday Lunch in an Australian Pub from February 2009, I ran through the numbers and the bottom line was that there are way more pubs, man for man, in the UK than there are here in Australia. By my maths, and from the numbers I had back then, I reckon there is one pub for every 1000 people in the UK whereas here in Australia it’s one pub per 5000 people.

Big difference! But then here in Australia, a barbecue in the back garden with your friends round is almost certainly more popular than it is in the UK.

I also went for a drink in an Australian pub that was decidedly British…

English pubIn my post called Your Australia Holiday is About to Begin I was hugely jealous to discover that the small town of Maclean had two pubs all to itself…

two-pubs-in-macleanI wrote Australia Versus England: Beer and Pubs in September 2011 and explained that where I used to live in England I could walk to about 8 different pubs in around 10 minutes, now here, where I live in Australia, the nearest pub is a 10 minute drive.

Or was.

Tomorrow, at 10 AM, a new local pub opens in our area. It’s been a long time coming; now it has arrived. It’s a pub, but not as we know it. It’s big, very big! Huge, actually. Here’s the front as seen from the main road…

pub-frontAnd here’s the view from the back…

pub-back-closerAustralia does have some fantastic old-style colonial pubs with bags of character, this isn’t one of them. This is one of Australia’s modern pubs, they have deliberately moved away from the old-style, I think, because today’s modern pub in Australia is more of a venue in which whole families can have fun.

There is something for everyone inside the modern Australian tavern.

So what’s inside our new pub?

  • Well, first off, it has a huge underground car park, plenty of parking for all.
  • Four outdoor drinking terraces, I believe one will be a segregated smoking area and the other three non-smoking.
  • A licensed “betting office” or TAB, as they are called here. Yes, you can gamble on horses, watch them live on the screens and drink beer at the same time. Would never have been allowed in the UK.
  • A sports bar: this is where the large screen TV will be; the place to watch the football, State of Origin and other major sporting events.
  • A steak house: prime cuts of steak served however you like it along with other choices on the menu.
  • Two children’s play areas, one indoor and one out.
  • It will also have pokies, or one armed bandits as we used to call them in the UK. More gambling I’m afraid.
  • Best of all, it has a “courtesy bus” which will pick you up and drop you off home when you’re done. Free, of course. This is quite essential where we are in Western Suburbs, housing is what’s called “low-density” in this area and for many people a stroll to the pub could take up to an hour, even though they live locally.


Let’s not forget, that round here we also have the Sports and Rec, a club rather than a pub, and they have a courtesy bus too.

So, three cheers for the courtesy bus! And, for now having the ability to say “I don’t know, where do you want to go for a drink tonight?

The Modern Tavern

It’s a far cry from pubs of old, both here in Australia and back in the UK. 30 years ago or so, pubs were for drinking, in some it was even impossible to buy a sandwich. Kids were not allowed; I suspect many of us remember waiting outside in the car with a bag of crisps.

Things have changed a good deal since then.

So that’s the modern Australian pub; it may not win any awards for architecture, but it will certainly cater for both men and women, families with children, smokers and non-smokers, gamblers and sports fanatics, as well as drinkers and those who are hungry.

Let’s hope it also caters for bitter drinkers and not just those who drink lager. Tomorrow night, I’ll find out.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • john April 17, 2013, 5:57 am |

    Yes, I spent a lot of Sunday afternoons in the late 70s and early 80’s in a car in a pub car park eating steak sandwiches or crisps, while my mum and dad were in the pub, I wasn’t allowed in being a child.

    I’ve got no hard feelings about that, I can’t stand kids in pubs.

    The Australian tavern, often adjacent or actually within shopping malls (I just don’t get that), the beer garden, often just a few hardened drinkers and smokers sat outside on chairs on the pavement next a road, watching four lanes of traffic go by, where is the pleasure in that?

    Australians have got no right to use the word ‘tavern’ for that experience, tavern suggests a building with character and 200 years of drinking history, all infused into the carpet and curtains.

    Your right, socializing and drinking alcohol is done outdoors here, when you meet friends at bbq’s or at the beach or whatever.

    • BobinOz April 17, 2013, 5:51 pm |

      Steak sandwiches? You were lucky! 🙂

      Yes, I have to agree with you on this John. Australia appears to have two distinct and different kinds of pub, those full of character that have been there for years and years, and these modern taverns that do seem to attach themselves to shopping malls and precincts.

      I have driven through many of those small remote towns, you know the ones, with around 1000 to 10,000 population and looked enviously at their colonial pub full of character whilst thinking “I wish I lived here!”

      But I don’t, and last night I went down to this new tavern for a drink; to say I was hugely disappointed would be a massive understatement on my behalf. It’s certainly not what I’d hoped for. I would have loved it to have been a pub something like the one they have in Samford, north-west of Brisbane.

      But it’s not.

      I think the back garden barbecue will remain king around here.

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