POLL, VIDEO, GALLERY:  The Star Hotel

IT'S weathered a rough-and-ready clientele including bikies, transvestites and marked mob members, and survived a fiery riot that famously inspired Cold Chisel.

But now the former Star Hotel appears set to be toppled once and for all by developers.

The iconic site, that runs from 563-571 Hunter Street through to 410 King Street, Newcastle West, has been sold by Street Real Estate for a sum believed to have tipped the $2 million mark but fallen short of the $2.8 million asking price.

Agent Andrew Walker said the owner did not wish to be named. However he confirmed the buyer was a property group with local and Sydney connections that would probably bulldoze the buildings on the 3066-square-metre site.

"Indications are that the group won't be adaptively reusing the existing buildings and my understanding is that it will be removed," he said.

The vendor of the site is Taree-based Stacks Managed Investments Limited, whose principal Ray Stack said the transaction was a mortgagee in possession sale by the owner, Quentin Developments Pty Ltd.

Mr Walker said there was currently a development approval on the site for a 12-storey, mixed-use complex including residential, commercial, retail and car-park space.

He believed the new owner would raze the buildings and then "revisit" the DA.

Mr Walker said much of the "chequered" history of the Star - which was shut down after the 1979 riot and later revamped twice before finally closing in 2003 - would disappear if it was demolished.

"Bikies have been there, [disgraced former detective] Roger Rogerson had some connections to it, it all went on."

The Star Hotel began its life in 1855, when it was built by Scottish immigrant Ewen Cameron, whose family owned the freehold for almost 80 years.

In its vibrant, 1970s heyday, the venue's front bar at the Hunter Street end heaved with sailors from ships in the harbour, surfies, bikies, nefarious waterfront types and, word had it, Melbourne-based crims lying low.

In the raucous backbar at the King Street end, regular bands including Benny and the Jets played to an appreciative clientele that literally let it all hang loose, dancing on the bar.

The middle bar was a magnet for the gay and lesbian community and many a tranny, with its drag shows also pulling crowds.

Punters also spilled out into Devonshire Laneway, which linked the bars and provided an ideal al fresco area for carousing and canoodling. There, patrons could expect to hand over a dollar note or two that would be passed by multiple hands above the crowd, arrive at the bar inside and then miraculously return in the form of booze and loose change.

With no cover charge for the range of entertainment it offered at a time when unemployment was high, the Star was a shining beacon for the young and the restless.

"No description could do justice to the Star, it has to be seen to be believed - an immense, crumbling ruin of a place that exudes the seaminess and rough life one expects of a seaport," said one Herald report that marked its 30th anniversary.

"Four bars, in various stages of decay, and a beer garden courtyard make up the drinking area. The paint has peeled off the ceiling in places and plaster is chipped off the walls. The only attraction is its atmosphere, and of that there is plenty.

"The drinkers in the Star are a diverse lot. Depending on the hour and day, any one of the bars could be crowded with businessmen, seamen, students or steelworkers."

Given its tawdry history and patronage, it was no surprise that by 1979 the hotel's owner, Sydney-based Tooths Brewery, faced mounting pressure from authorities to shut it.

When it gave the then publican Don Graham the legally required one week's notice to cease trade, Tooths probably had no inkling it would literally cause a riot.

But so it was on the hotel's last night of trade on Wednesday, September 19, 1979, when police officers arrived to enforce the official 10pm closing time, cutting short the final gig by local band The Heroes.

A police inspector's car was overturned and set alight along with another police car, and rocks and beer cans rained from the heavens as some of the estimated 4000-strong crowd let rip in protest.

The night is etched in the memory of Pete de Jong, the lead singer of The Heroes, who was crooning the group's song - ironically titled The Star and The Slaughter - when all hell broke loose.

"Never let it be forgotten that despite newspaper reports at the time, there were between 4000 and 7000 people there of whom only about 100 were protesting - the rest were just spectators," said Mr de Jong, today the marketing manager at Cutcher & Neale.

Despite the threat of demolition, he said the Star's swansong would endure. "The legend of that night will long outlive the physical building."

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