THIS week's photo shows the Howick and George Street intersection filled with hundreds of bandsmen with the Club House Hotel in the background. The hotel was taken over by Bathurst Coffee Palace in early 1880 and delicensed. This photo was taken possibly 30 years after the 'hotel' sold coffee and hot chocolate instead of alcoholic beer and wine. It offered an astounding range of facilities, including smoking and billiard rooms, accommodation and a grand salon.
The Bathurst Coffee Palace was fortunate in securing one of the finest sites in Bathurst, directly opposite the St Stephen's Presbyterian Church. The premises had been occupied by Thomas L. Malveen's Club House Hotel. The licence for the previous business was cancelled in March 1880 by the licencing magistrate at Bathurst Court House.
The coffee establishment was the principal idea of George Smith, a Son of Temperance, and several supporters and it opened on Thursday, April 8, 1880, the Bathurst Independent reported. While it appears the founders went to a good deal of expense to make the coffee establishment appealing, they found that there were simply not enough locals who preferred coffee over alcoholic drinks.
The Sons of Temperance had been active in Bathurst for at least 15 years before they established their coffee palace. The Sons of Temperance, along with the local volunteers, the cadets and the Foresters, assembled at the Ordnance Ground in April 1876 at noon and marched in procession along Durham, George, and Keppel streets to the Bathurst Railway Station. There, they took up their position near the platform to await the arrival of His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, with Lady Robinson and suite, accompanied by the Hon. John Robertson and the Hon. J. Lackey, to officially open the recently completed railway station.
Several coffee establishments began business in Sydney and Melbourne in the late 1870s. The Sydney Coffee Palace Hotel, the newest of the metropolitan institutions, was receiving a good deal of attention in the Sydney newspapers in October 1879. The reporter thought that it had an excellent prospect of becoming both widely popular and useful. The Coffee Palace movement was described as one of the most significant and suggestive signs of the times. They were the 'public house' of a new order, comprehending all that could be regarded as essential to such establishments, but eliminating what was regarded as a non-essential - the sale of alcoholic liquors.
It was considered a philanthropic movement. It was thought the best way to lessen drunkenness in large cities was to multiply places of resort which supplied all that ought to be supplied and were yet wholly separated from the great temptation. It was directed as a middle-class institution and was framed especially to catch the large number of respectably born and cultured young men who were employed in warehouses, the railway, shops and other institutions.
Bathurst was one of the earliest coffee palaces to set up, but within two decades, even small towns had an establishment. Bathurst's Coffee Palace had an elegant marble bar which served tea, coffee, American drinks, fruit and confectionery and several Morocco lounges which afforded rest to customers while drinking their beverages. The floors were covered with linoleum and there was a reading room which contained the principal colonial, as well as several foreign journals. There were comfortably and luxuriously appointed Morocco armchairs as one of the coffee palace's temptations.
The Ladies' Coffee Saloon was light and airy as well as elegantly ornamented. The billiard-room had a splendid table and billiard seats that allowed the occupants to sufficiently raise them to command a full view of the game.
In the end, however, there was simply not adequate patronage and Margaret Mutton changed the name back to the Club House Hotel in July 1882 and started selling alcohol again.