5 Newcastle venues we wish we still had

Newcastle was once famous for its thriving night life and especially its live music scene. Though things are very different now, here’s 5 venues we wish were still here…


In the halcyon days of Newcastle night life there were literally 22 live gigs in Hunter Street alone from The Cambridge in the west end to The Great Northern in the east.


Sadly, things have changed and not necessarily for the better. The centre of our city is more akin to a retirement village some nights, and the once flourishing night-time economy is no longer the powerhouse it used to be. For the state’s 2nd biggest city, this is tragic.


There are some great memories though, and here are five of the legendary venues that formed so much of Newcastle’s character…


1. Fanny’s (circa 1990s)

With a name like this, Fanny’s was always destined to be one of the notorious highlights of a night out in Newcastle. Sexy bar staff (both genders), lots of cozy little alcoves to settle in and a fantastic stage, sound system and dance floor – the nights where excess was just a matter of course. The best local acts were really able to strut their stuff on the big stage and the crowd responded as one. And, of course, the catwalk bikini babes and muscle men competitions were unmissable. Ah, the celebration of youth.

The venue was at its peak during the late 80’s and early 90’s under the ownership of Rolly de With who, apart from supporting the local music scene, made sure the place had a sense of style – let’s face it, with a name like Fanny’s, it would have been easy to become the sordid underside of Newcastle’s night life. But, during this period, Rolly created a place that had some glamour attached to the party.



2. The Jolly Roger

If Fanny’s was the destination for decadence in the 90’s, the JR was the den of debauchery. What a venue – you never felt judged or out of place at the Jolly Roger. In the words of the immortal Victor, the JR’s infamous manager, the venue was Newcastle’s number bloody one nightspot, number one venue – the stuttering radio ads echo even now – n-n-n-number one venue! The JR was home to the masses seeking a great time without the glitz or pretension.

As you walked in the door flanked by mountainous bouncers, sometimes paying at the little window, you headed up the stairs, making a left-hand u-turn at the top to enter the first room or a right turn into the restaurant. Amazing meals for ridiculously low prices. The main room had a low ceiling and as you looked to the stage at the far end, a haze of smoke hung overhead and the carpet stuck to foot underneath. To the left was Big G the DJ, and to the right the bar lined the wall. Many of the local musos hung out at the JR, renowned for the Snape Brothers’ residency every Thursday night. With the musos came the ladies – it was a feast of the scantily clad and very friendly. It would be true to say that what was seen at the JR, cannot be unseen…

Jolly Roger nightclub


3. The Palais

For a venue of such grandeur, it was sad to see what it became in its later years. Opening in 1929 and once a destination for dance bands and throngs of jivin’ folk in Newcastle’s early days, The Palais’ arrival in Newcastle was a sign of the city growing up, becoming a beacon for those wanting to socialise and enjoy live music. There were jazz bands, dance bands and people from all walks of life. Inside, there was an ornate ceiling held up by intricately carved columns. It was truly a masterpiece.

The venue hosted some of the biggest names in music including one memorable night when Crowded House forgot the song they were playing, in the process cracking themselves up – the crowd laughed too and the band simply started the song again. Unfortunately, the 1989 earthquake and then the 2007 Pasha Bulker storm brought this grand old lady to her dilapidated end. An icon sadly missed.


4. The Family Hotel

Now, this was a great pub for music. By the time the 70’s and 80’s rolled around, this venue was the spot to see some of the bands that were musically brilliant but without the commercial edge of the cover bands. Acts like The Slots, featuring a young and brilliant Nick Raschke on guitar, and the almighty Witchdoctors were regulars at The Family. The Witchdoctors featured the talented Bailie brothers and singer Choc Erriwatta and they were a musical force loved by many.

The Family wasn’t a flash pub, offering patrons an outdated dining room and furniture to match but we loved it just the same. It used to get so packed that the windows fogged up with condensation and, on some nights, you could see the smoke billowing out the doors. But it was an essential part of the Newcastle social experience and, again, one we sorely miss. Later some clever individual thought it would be a hoot to call it ‘The Duck’s Nuts’ – good grief, it was never the same again.


5. The Civic Hotel

You might remember this venue as the Federal Hotel, or maybe the Hunter On Hunter, or perhaps you just avoided it altogether due to its rough reputation as a bikie pub. Unlike the above, this venue’s glory days did not fall in the late 80s/early 90s. It was circa 2007-2008 when this venue sizzled under the new moniker of The Civic Hotel. Although The Civic’s golden era was relatively short-lived, it was certainly much-loved.

The Civic offered an alternative scene to the grungy Cambridge Hotel, the all-night party at King Street Hotel, or the sleazy Fanny’s (far removed from the 1990’s description above). This pokey little L-shaped venue was home to what you could call the trendy, alternative, or “hipster” crowd (before hipster was hipster). The small dance-floor was championed by some great Newcastle DJs (the legendary Kato, now Sydney-based, could always be found behind the decks) and live bands on the odd occasion. If you weren’t keen to hit the d-floor, you could chill out and chat up babes in the pokie room. Or, cram onto the smoking patio out the front and find your square inch of space to light up.

Just as it’s popularity was waning in favour of the CBD Hotel, a fire ripped through the Civic in 2009, becoming a very literal example of “it’s better to burn out, than to fade away…”



These are just a few of the colourful and quirky venues that gave Novocastrians some of their best nights out, and now we want to know your favourites! Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Newcastle Live

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  1. My all time favourite joint was The Mercury ( formally Studios, formally ???) , this was a time when Novacastrians let their vice grip on pub rock ease up and let their hair down to the sounds of Electronica, Funk , Soul and Hip Hop.
    Always delivering the sounds from the underground of big cities like London , Paris , New York , LA and more , the venue was packed from 9pm right through to the early morn. Some of the nations best Djs and producers and international guests often graced the turntables but it was the local groove dealers such as Tone, Patsan, Kato, Mathmatics, Skoob and more , who always delivered powerful , well thought out sets that kept us dancing till sunlight.
    It was an institution that still gets mentioned till this day and was responsible for helping kickstart the local scene.

  2. LOTS….The Uptown Circus, The Airforce Club, The Great Northern, The Castle, The Bel Air, The Delany, The Ambassador, The Cambridge, The Workers Club…….just to name a few….

  3. Nice unauthorised use of protected images. Seriously guys, photographers are in the same position as musicians. You wouldn’t condone someone illegally downloading music. Stealing images is the same thing. There’s even a water mark on one of the photos.

    Very lazy.

  4. I loved being high as a kite going from the cbd. Then staggering to the ducks nuts and then the empire. Great memories of local bands. Loved the ducks nuts, was there wed- sat most week nights.

  5. So many great memories of Ncle night life.the Latex Basement,Fellowship house Wallsend,Greek club in King St,The Workers Club (pre earthquake) The Early Jolly Roger,saw John Farnham there,the Star Hotel,The Clarendon,the Masonic Club,Keith’s Bar at Tatts,Bellair Kotara,Fannys was great early days even had a big open fire then.Ncle had it all & was so safe, sadly things change.

  6. I don’t believe no one has mentioned the Star Hotel, it was the most iconic pub in Newy. Hmmm great times and now great memories

  7. The Ambassador, Castle Tavern, Stewarts & Lloyds Rec Club and The Star were my favourites hangs back in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. Seeing bands such as Heroes, DV8, Idols, Livewire. Great times indeed.

  8. The Crazy Horse, The Castle and The worlds biggest disco @ the workers club.
    Also had some fun times at Juke box Saturday night at Belmont 16ft sailing club.

  9. Don’t forget the legendary “BUS STOP DISCO” next to the Co-Op Store and across the road from the Cambridge Hotel. Pinochios and Shindig Village.


  10. UJ Neil of a Saturday night at the Grand Hotel, the place use to bust at the seams to get everyone in there. They were the days.

  11. The Crazy Horse in Watt Street. Had lots of fun there. Even went there with a few others on the night us ladies made our Debute & the whole club was cheering and congratulating us, as they thought we all had just got married….lol I’ll never forget that 🙂

  12. Newcastle workers club (Parachute Club), Gun Fighters, JR, Palais Royale, Lucky Country, Casbar, Pipers (only if you couldn’t get into another nightclub), Great Northern. This generation don’t know what they are missing.

    • Absolutely, awesome times in Newcastle during the 80″s, many a great night Friday and Saturday night trying to make the length of Hunter Street. Good times

  13. In the 90s for us it was JR ($2 spirits until 10pm!), Jacks on King (was casbar and then became CBD), the castle (cover girl comp), fannys (miss surfest and Miss Indy where Jen Hawko ran second one year! The beaches hotel (Sunday nights and Miss Lovely Legs comp) The Brewery (in summer especially any New Years Eve but 1999 new years there was massive…what a night that was! Grimspoon and powderfinger! The Newcastle Workers was the best place to pickup :)…. Not sure why the New Workers stopped the Sat nights world biggest disco they ran there…i remeber we told them they go under when they finished it up and as expected the club went broke after that and they then wondered why nobody went there…morons.) Sometimes the Famiy, SJs, Delany (until 12) and The Grand and underground nightclub for a change were OK. Lots of people loved the lucky country pub…not our go though. Later in the 2000s it was Finnigens, king street, frost bites. Some Great bands playing Newy around that time i hasily recall were the Screaming Jets, Valhalla, Little Hornet (the lead singer Tyrone used to get all the hot chicks), Spook, DV8, call for chaos, jucoozie suit, Some Older dudes I know rave about the Mawson Hotel at Caves Beach in the 80s where cold chisel,midnight oil and Hoodoo Gurus used to play…thats before my time but bet that must have been great times! These days…not sure where it happens…nowhere near as many places to go. I think the Hamilton Station is the new JR from what I’m told….Delays looking flash, and maybe Finos. Plenty of violence in there but there always was from what I remember…KingStreet Maccas was like the golden gloves…always big blues there! Best fighter back then…Craig “close shave” Neilson. Best dude at pulling chicks…that aging Casanova Ian “Tomo” Thomson :). How great would it be to wind back the clock for just one more Saturday night with all those venues open again….bring it on! Oh well…back to reality now 🙂

  14. I remember frequenting the world-famous ‘Ambassador Nite Spot’, seeing Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, The Angels, KB Express, The Party-Boys et-al.. And then just a few doors up the road – at the ‘Palais-Royale’ watching The Choirboys, Hoodoo-Gurus let rip.. Then across the road to The Family to see DV8 and around the corner you’d arrive at The Castle Tavern with the infamous Judge Mercy, then over to The Ncle Workers Club with the likes of Live Wire and even Icehouse, then finishing your nights off at either The Jolly Roger, or Fannys where The Kookabrothers often played.. ahhh the memories 🙂 But my fondest memories are of being at The Cambridge Hotel with my besties to see Gangajang.. a great band.. And then of course it was a must do on Thursday nights for The Funbusters – it was there I met my beautiful wife J..

  15. The early 90’s Jacks on King had a pool hall nextdoor WBD at Newcastle Workers JRHotel , Palais saw the Jets play Empire free bus home lol & a few other lil bars around that area Don’t forget the hotdog shop nextdoor to the reddoor ? across the street from NWClub….

    • Paul Cherry……crazy nights and best times. Remember the band room at The Rejects affectionly known ‘ brothel’ on chadham Rd ….technically not a venue, though many jam sessions and good memories

  16. Who remembers seeing Sligo Maid at the Lass O’Gowrie.. The Lass rocked for Indie bands too.
    What about the Warehouse parties. The warehouse had incredible dj’s and the best underground feel.
    And then there was those all age gigs at the Morrow Park.
    What was the name of that big all age joint down the west end of Hunter St?

  17. The Town Hall, and the “Town Hall Crawl” don’t seem to have rated a mention. But that is going back to the 50’s and the 60’s.

    • Surely you would remember Shindig Villiage which was half way up one of the steep streets. Not sure if it was Brown Street.

  18. what about Bombay Rock (post Ambassador Nightclub), Pump Nightclub, and QE2 and Bojangles? Would be great to bring back Jokers Tavern (above Sanity music in the mall).

  19. No one has mentioned ADAMS DISCO that (that I saw anyway) Upstairs from the main ballroom of the Palais. Old Time downstairs, rock upstairs and the balcony so crowded on a hot night it’s a wonder it did not fall of. And of course BUSSTOP !!! the best venue ever. Both venues unlicenced so at 16 years which I was back in 1960 we could go to see great Aussie bands And then wander up the street quite safe to drink coffee at Kurts.




  20. The Tattersall’s Club had great bands, then over to the East Room (upstairs at the Great Northern for free pool and table service by the lovely Susie Porter)

  21. So many places, so many great memories. I remember the Palais, Bustop, Ziggy’s, Airforce Club, the Star, the Workies. So many pubs in Hunter Street. Usually picked the venue based on who was playing. Lots of nights it was hard to pick as we were spoilt for choice.Always headed for the Ambassador after midnight. One night got there earlier and it was nearly empty so when the band came on my friend and I had the dance floor to ourselves. Had not heard of this band called INXS but we had a great time and managed to keep our spot on the floor even when the crowds turned up later. There was a great club at Lambton but I forget the name.

  22. What about The Conquistador? Where Rundles Menswear are now. First topless bar in Newcastle around mid 70’s I think.
    And our first disco … Shindig Village, were The Assembly played. They were the forerunner band to become Gold Cadillac. Now those were the days .. The 60’s started it all

  23. WHat was the name of the place that was a pub upstairs, often with a band, and then a night club down stairs. It had the longest, narrowest, steepest staircase that all us girls had to make it down while trying not to look pissed! Always a DJ on in the night club, and always skin to skin on the dance floor! Great fun, every night seemed to finish here in the naughties, around the time all the best places were finishing up (such as the Workers Club Worlds Biggest Disco, The Castle, The JR.)

  24. Who could forget ziggys had to pay cover charge but with some gov rule you had to eat used to get curry prawns loved when the song wrappers delight would play dance floor full girls on one side boys on the other dancing down the centre great disco outfits when that shut off down too pax night club where spotlight car park is ahh the memories

    • After the nightclubs lots headed to the Vienna coffee lounge. Best toasted sandwiches and coffee. Many a late night there

      • I remember going to some coffee lounge that had massive lounges and felt like it was on stood top somewhere but was always too pissed to actually remember what it was called

  25. Newcastle certainly isn’t the same as when I was a teenager growing up there in the 70’S & 80’S, Kurts Coffee Lounge & the cockroachs lol

    • Ha yes that’s it kurts coffee lounge. Was always too pissed to remember the name. Big lounges to sit and spin out in

  26. Pipers, Pump, stumps, castle, castenet club, Air Force, uptown circus, gunfighters rest… To name a few.

  27. But what about the Greek Clubs of the 60’s. Pubs closed at 10 Greek Clubs opened at 10. $1 for a stubbie was a bit rich tho. And don’t forget The Hunter Hotel

  28. Just spent the best half hour reading all these posts and reliving the days! Thank you sure was a trip down memory lane. Kurts was THE best. What has happened to our night life? Not just Newcastle. Is it because so many drugs have come to life and too much crime?

    • The star hotel, the civic hotel, the cambridge hotel,clinker s taver at the belmont hotel, the gunyah hotel. Then you had the discos like Ziggies and so on. We should have a reunion to see if we recognize each other from those days.

  29. Tatts, rumours, gunfighters, JR, fanny’s, the Cambridge, Souths, great northern, Air Force club, criterion, pipers, Pallas, the empire, crown and anchor, uni bar, the family, Lloyds, Newcastle bowlo, Delaney, anywhere…the party just moved from one to the other, you knew it was good if it ended at hamburger haven or for the all nighter the Apollo for champagne breakfast on your way home! Great memories!

  30. Wasn’t there a night spot called the Conquistador in Hunter Street in about the early 70’s? Think it was opposite the Ambassador.

  31. The Civic Hotel was not the Federal or the other one mentioned. It was always the Civic Hotel before it turned into the Casbah. That is when it burnt down due to the seagrass matting on the ceiling catching fire from the BBQ.

  32. Great memories! Mine go back to the 60’s – the Workers Club followed by the El Toro upstairs on Union Street (where the brothel is now I think) – the roulette wheel and the card tables were set up for quick change if there was a raid, the gay club upstairs near the Clarendon, the Greek Club above the Chinese restaurant near the Royal! Coffee at the Vienna upstairs in Pacific street where the park is now – moved over the road near the Il Marco restaurant later, Seri’s in Darby Street (where the Telstra building is now). The Beaches Hotel was at the end of King Street, the Star, Bustop disco, the list goes on! No id checks back then but there was a little shiver of fear that I’ld get spotted at 16 by myself!

  33. No one has mentioned Surf City yet. Start at Great Northern for the band and cheap booze, then next door to Surf City to dance (loved the jungle room and the half cadillac couch at reception), then Customs House, Brewery and finish at Fannys. Standard Saturday night in the early 2000s.

  34. The warners bay tavern, ziggys, the palais, the Belair, the beaches, Belmont 16’s to name a few. Those were the good ol days! So much happening, so many top bands who became famous. I was such a lucky one to grow up in the 70’s! Best of times

  35. Anyone remembers Pac’s night garden???? Disco fever…light up dance floor. Strange place. Where the spotlight car park is now. Went there when I was 14. They were Chinese owners I think, I remember a cat getting patted by a guy that looked like he was out of a old Chinese action movie….long grey beard. Bit like a opium den in there.

  36. I miss the Newcastle workers club in the early 80s. The way Newcastle is now, who is responsible for this. This is not progress, just greedy angry people trying to hurt those who enjoyed those times.

  37. Every Saturday night we started at the Brewery for Happy Hour $2 spirit drinks, then stumbled to Jacks on King and danced amongst the smoke from the smelly smoke machine, then ended up at the Workers and danced to the music from the Worlds Biggest Disco. Those were the days… now I’m happy to go to a restaurant at honeysuckle on a rare night out. Though I still enjoy a cocktail from the cocktail bar in Beaumont street.

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