Licensing Court 1888 hearings

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In 1888 the Ballarat Licensing Court reviewed the licenses of 72 hotels.



As a result of a community vote, known as the local option polls, the Ballarat East Licensing District was to only have 27 hotel licenses.[1] As there were 72 hotels in the district, this meant the board had to recommend the closure of 45 hotels. They based their recommendations on an inspection of all the hotels. Their stated goals was to retain those hotels which provided a community and public function with a range of services including accommodation. Hotels which were simply drinking venues were not highly regarded by the court. The three members of the court were Judge Casey, and Police Magistrates Carr and Thomson, assisted by Police Inspector Parkinson.[1] The report shows some insights into the Ballarat community. The Court remarked about the Tariff Hotel was "fairly conducted, considering the low class frequenting it."[1] The Argus obviously thought it newsworthy to comment on the Red Lion Hotel which was to be kept open even though it was " hotel kept by a Chinaman, Ah Mong, which the inspector described as admirably kept."[1]


Their recommendations were reported in the Argus:

"The Court has heard all the evidence that has been adduced and had had the very great advantage of a personal inspection of all the licensed premises concerned. At first it appeared to be a formidable and a disagreeable task to determine which should be continued, but after our personal investigation, the duty we had to perform did not appear to be so difficult. Out of the 72 houses licensed in Ballarat East, over 50 exist upon a bar trade exclusively. There were many houses that we visited which ought never to have been licensed. In some the stench was so bad and the filth so apparent that the members of the Court could not endure a minute investigation. In many instances we found very comfortable hotels in the true sense of the term while in other instances we found well built houses, but poorly furnished and which bore eloquent evidence that they were intended for drinking shops rather than places for public accommodation. We have had to determine sometimes when the contest was between a good, well built house and a less pretentious one whether public convenience on the one hand or private interest on the other should be considered. We take this opportunity of saying that wherever we have found a licensed house furnishing accommodation for, and actually patronised by, the public, we have continued such a place in preference to one existing merely on a bar trade. We have had to take into consideration the wants of the public, and retain houses spread over the district where we thought the public would derive the greatest convenience from them. After careful consideration and with some doubt we have determined upon retaining the best conducted hotels, and where the best accommodation to the public is supplied. We cannot close these proceeding without expressing our thanks to the barristers and attorneys engaged for the great assistance they have afforded us during them. To Inspector Parkinson we owe a special debt for the very able and impartial evidence he supplied to the Court, which upon our personal inspection we found to be so faithfully correct.[1]


To remain open

Hotels recommended to be kept open[1]:

To be closed

Hotels recommended to be closed:

Court challenge

Richard Woofe of the Robert Burns Hotel lodged an objection, claiming that there were irregularities in the way that the poll was conducted.[2]

The Geelong Advertiser reported on the legal challenge:

BALLARAT LOCAL OPTION POLL.(FROM OUR MELBOURNE CORRESPONDENT.)Friday. A rule nisi for a writ of certiorari, to bring up the proceedings of the Ballarat East Licensing Court, with a view to their being quashed for illegality, was granted by the Full Court to-day. The number of licensed houses was declared to have been reduced from 72 to 27 by the poll of the electors on the 23rd March, and the 45 houses to be deprived of their licenses were decided upon by the Licensing Court on the 29th June. The relator was Richard Woofe, landlord of the Robert Burns Hotel, Humphray (sic) street, who had been notified that he would not be granted a renewal at the next annual meeting of the Licensing Court. The grounds upon which the rule was obtained were that the regulations under which the poll was held were ultra vires and unreasonable. Assuming their validity the poll was invalid, because notices of the intention to hold the poll and of its result were not given in a paper published in the licensing district, or a Melbourne newspaper; that the court should have determined for itself what was the determination of the electors, and not have accepted as sufficient the report of the returning officer ; that there was no legal evidence before the court of the determination of the electors ; and that the court improperly declined to receive evidence tendered to prove that the regulations had not been complied with in taking the poll. The Chief Justice observed that the Full Court had already determined the regulations were ultra vires, but Mr Hodges pointed out that their Honors, in the Geelong case, had only given an opinion, for a decision on the regulations was not, by their-own admission, necessary, the application being settled by the finding that certiorari directed to the clerk of the Licensing Court before the Court commenced its sittings was the wrong remedy. Mr Hodges further pointed out that the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Kerferd had given their opinion in favor of the validity of the regulations, and Mr Justice Williams and Mr Justice a'Beckett against them. Mr Justice Holroyd, who is a member of the present Full Court, before whom this rule is returnable next week, has not yet had an opportunity of expressing his opinion.[3]

A second Local Option Poll was held which found that only 40 hotels would be force to close.[2] Despite his efforts, Woofe's hotel was one of the hotels to close.

The People


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1888 'THE BALLARAT LICENSING COURT.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 30 June, p. 14, viewed 16 February, 2015,
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hargreaves, John. Ballarat Hotels Past and Present, pg. 6, 1943, Ballarat
  3. 1888 'BALLARAT LOCAL OPTION POLL.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1924), 21 July, p. 2, viewed 16 February, 2015,


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