376 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (Moonee Valley / Punters Club)

Built in 1864-1865, this pub has had a number of different roles, initially the Wheatsheaf Hotel, it later became the Moonee Valley Hotel in 1893. In 1987 it became the Punters Club, a well known live music venue, until 2002 when rising rents forced the owners to move further north. Since then it has been Bimbo Deluxe Pizza and is now Kewpie a bar and nightclub.

Google image

The Wheatsheaf

This pub was built in approximately 1864-1865 and was first licenced to Benjamin Parker, a brewer. From 1863-1865, Parker was the licensee of the Eglington Castle Hotel which was located just a few doors north at 382 Brunswick Street. With the new hotel on the corner of Leicester Street finished he moved in and became the licensee in 1865 (Hotels in Fitzroy up to 1906, Nicola A Piccolo, 1971). Parker was also the owner of the pub and at the same time was renting a Brewery located where 27-33 Cecil Street is today from Henry Pinson. (Rate Books, 1865).

In 1870, Parker transfers the lease to George Baker, and that he takes the Publican’s License to the Greyhound Hotel located in Bourke Street, but this is only for a short period and the Greyhound Hotel licence transferred from Parker to William Kiniese in March, 1870 (The Herald, 7 Mar 1870). Parker then reapplies for the licence for the Wheatsheaf in August 1871 (The Herald, 5 Sep 1871).

It is interesting, as the September notice indicates that there are six rooms being used for the hotel. We know from the Rate Books in 1871 that the building is a stone building consisting of a bar and 8 rooms, along with a stable, so it would indicate that Parker was using two rooms for his family.

Parker remains the licensee for the Wheatsheaf Hotel until 1877. During this time he loses his wife, Elizabeth Rita Parker (nee Holmes), in April 1872 (The Argus, 13 Apr 1872), he also winds up his brewery partnership with William Cuffley, named Parker Brothers which operated out of Cecil Street (The Argus, 8 Jul 1873). Everything the partnership of ‘Parker Brothers’ is sold. The Wheatsheaf Hotel including the business, is put up for sale, along with the double fronted property next door on Brunswick Street, four cottages on Kay Street, Carlton (known as the Surrey Cottages) and a large block of building land on what is now Queens Parade (The Argus, 26 Jul 1873). In a separate advertisement, the Fitzroy Brewery (along with stock, the brewery plant, the book debts and the premises in Cecil Street) is also put up for sale (The Argus 23 July 1873).

The Wheatsheaf is subsequently owned by Herman S Chinnick, but Parker remains the licensee till 1877. The Hotel is described in 1873 as “35ft frontage to Brunswick Street by a depth along Rose Street of 67ft., with a right of way 10ft wide in the rear on which is erected that well and faithfully built brick-and-stone hotel known as the WHEATSHEAF HOTEL, containing on ground floor – bar, bar parlour, two sitting rooms, and kitchen; on upper floor – large room suitable for lodge or meeting room and three bedrooms. This hotel is newly built of bluestone and brick with slate roof, and is in an excellent situation for business, opposite Walker and Rush’s flour-mill.”

By 1880, it appears that Parker has disappeared with unpaid debts to the Wheatsheaf, as an advert runs noting that a Spring Cart has been seized for rent and if not claimed by Parker within 3 days will be sold to pay expenses (The Age, 12 Feb 1880). I can then find little of Parker until his death on 11 December 1887 (aged 52-53 years). He is buried in Melbourne Cemetery with his wife.

There was an odd notice in the paper on 12 Jul 1884, that reads “Should this meet the eye of any of Mr. Benjamin Parker’s children, formerly of the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Brunswick Street, Carlton, Fitzroy, Melbourne, they will hear of their mother and sister by writing to Mrs. A Cuffley , Post Office, Little Ilford, Essex, England”. Ann Cuffley was William’s wife, so perhaps she went home and found something out from Parker’s wife’s family? It is curious as Elizabeth Parker had died 12 years earlier and Benjamin Parker was still alive at this stage.

For interest sake, William Cuffley also is a licensee of pubs and at the same time as Parker owned the Wheatsheaf, he owned pubs in Nicholson Street and then later in Smith Street Collingwood and ultimately in Maribyrnong street, Footscray. He lives into his 70s and Ann is still alive when he passes.

Following Parker, the hotel turns over a lot:

  • 1877 – Patrick Quinn
  • 1878 – Agnes Wallen
  • 1880 – Patrick Cunnair
  • 1882 – Charlotte Connell
  • 1883 – John Payne
  • 1885 – William Murphy
  • 1886 – Andrew Young
  • 1887 – J Dwyer
  • 1888 – McLaughlin
  • 1889 – Kate Stephens
  • 1890 – M. McNamara
  • 1891 – John Corman
  • 1892 – John Nugent
  • 1893 – Mrs Sarah Dean

Moonee Valley Hotel

“The hotel building, although opened in 1865, is basically Early Victorian in character with its plain wall surfaces and conservative window trimmings. However, the semi-circular arch over the main doorway complete with a miniature head on the keystone is typical of the late 1870s. The parapet was added to and ‘improved’ later on in the 1920s.” (Hotels in Fitzroy up to 1906, Nicola A Piccolo, 1971)

Following the name change in 1893, the rapid turnover of licensees continues:

1894 – Miss M Mitchell

1895 – Mrs M Stanley

1896 – Mrs J Muirhead

1898 – C Mullan

1899 – Michael Duggan

1901 – E B Hogan

1902 – Mrs E Young

1904 – Miss A Turner

1906 – Thomas Robinson

The Punters Club

Image from Beat Magazine

This venue later became the Punters Club in 1987, renovating the Moonee Value Hotel. This was the work of Rob Guerini and Ric DiPietro, who envisioned an exciting live music venue.

The venue was amazing and launched the career of many musicians. One such muscian was Angie Hart, from Frente, who started hanging out at the Punters Club in 1988 (she was just 16) and when noticed she was politely ejected by Simon Austin who was an aspiring songwriter. They eventually connected musically to create Frente!. The Club would put on new music bands including Magic Dirt, Something for Kate, You am I,Spiderbait, Guttersnipes, the Fauves, the Hollowmen etc. The venue closed in 2002 as a result of rising rents that made the viability of the venue untenable. (The Age, 26 Nov 2010) and (Beat Magazine)

Bimbo Deluxe (Pizza Bar)

From 2002, it has been Bimbo Deluxe Pizza Bar, the site was engulfed in fire in May 2018 and when it reopened in 2019, it became Bimbo. The inside is largely unrecognisable though it said true to the original layout and has been designed by Rabindra Naidoo. The couches were replaced with pink fibreglass booths, the bar is a big American oak horseshoe and underfoot is black and white tiles with brass detailing. The colours are bold and a DJ booth was added in firery pink and purple flames. (Broadsheet, Melbourne December 2019)

During the pandemic over 2020 and 2021, it has been closed.

Kewpie

In April 2021, the licence and lease was sold to the Australian Venue Co (who also own the Perseverance).

On November 8, 2021, Kewpie, named after the big Kewpie doll on the buildings exterior will reopen. They are hoping to keep it much the same as it is today, so the $5 pizzas remain. (Broadsheet, Melbourne, 18 October 2021)

2 thoughts on “376 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (Moonee Valley / Punters Club)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: