Snake Gully Hotel, former Bar 121 venue, set to be demolished for residential and commercial development

LAST DRINKS: Licensee Brett McGovern at the Snake Gully Hotel, which he has leased for the past 11 years. The venue will close in August. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll
LAST DRINKS: Licensee Brett McGovern at the Snake Gully Hotel, which he has leased for the past 11 years. The venue will close in August. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll

Hotel history in Newcastle is set to change forever next month when the Snake Gully Hotel closes its doors and makes way for a four-story residential and commercial development. 

After more than 130 years of operation on Elder Street, the Lambton pub – once known as Bar 121 and originally as the Commercial Hotel – is set to call last drinks for the final time. 

The Newcastle Herald understands the hotel was purchased and then later sold on to a consortium without the liquor licence and rights to seven poker machines.

An application to build a four-story complex with 15 units and four commercial spaces was approved under delegation in May, 2017. 

Demolition of the hotel and construction of the unit complex is expected to commence later this year. 

HISTORIC: The Commercial Hotel at Lambton in 1901. It's believed the hotel began operating about 1880.

HISTORIC: The Commercial Hotel at Lambton in 1901. It's believed the hotel began operating about 1880.

Snake Gully Hotel licensee Brett McGovern said his lease of the pub was ending in August and he had planned to exit the hotel regardless of the site development. 

Mr McGovern and his wife, former Olympian Donna Procter, took over the venue in 2007 – when it was known as Bar 121 – and changed the name back to the Snake Gully Hotel. He said while it was “sad to see” the end of the hotel, it had been a unique period of life for his family over the past 11 years.

“We bought the pub and four weeks later we had our first child,” he said. “So we had a fair bit on that month.

“We’ve brought our whole family up here. We got married while we’ve been here, we’ve had two kids, we’ve had a lot of lovely locals. We’re going to really miss it.”

TIME CALLED: The Snake Gully Hotel in July, 2018. The pub will soon be demolished for a unit development.

TIME CALLED: The Snake Gully Hotel in July, 2018. The pub will soon be demolished for a unit development.

Mr McGovern said running the hotel had brought some “cool” memories, including Newcastle Knights’ end-of-year celebrations and a grand final night when the couple severely underestimated the predicted trade.

He said a plaque once displayed inside the hotel suggested it was where the West Rosellas Rugby League Football Club was born. He also believed it was the last pub in Newcastle to serve beer from “wooden kegs”. 

“There’s so many people you meet, it’s a big chunk of your life,” he said. 

“The things you see living in a pub, it really does open your eyes. I love the lifestyle and I really love the hotel industry.” 

McGovern, an Australian Hotels Association member, said the hotel scene in Newcastle had changed during his time, both with positive aspects of evolving and drawbacks of late-night trading restrictions. 

Australian Hotels Association director liquor and policing, John Green, commended the publican.

“Brett has been a significant supporter of the Annual AHA Newcastle Variety Bash – both as participant and fund raiser,” Mr Green said. “It is hoped this will continue, and he’ll take the helm of another pub in due course.”