I was saddened to read yesterday that one of the great Sydney institutions, the Sandringham Hotel in Newtown, has gone into receivership and is set to close its doors. The Sando has always been something of a bellwether for the health or otherwise of the Sydney cultural scene, and this latest turn of events, while tragic for those of us with a close connection to the dear old girl (she turned 152 this year), merely reflects the changing tastes of Sydneysiders and the demise of the pub scene fostered by an older generation.
Back in 1996, when I was moved to write the poem "God drinks at the Sandringham" on which Tim Freedman based the oft-quoted song, those of us who had been around long enough could already see the writing on the wall for the live music scene as we had grown up with it, and sure enough 2 years later the grimy old, dog-friendly pub closed down (I still miss you JC!) to be re-opened as a pokie den (on which Tim based his other "Sando" song "Blow Up the Pokies", easily one of his best). Since then it has gone through a number of changes, the frequency of which is itself a reflection of the tenuous nature of the live music business in this new Sydney of ours.
I count myself lucky to have been part of a vibrant scene back in the 1990's in which the Sando paid such a pivotal part. I am sure the ghosts of Stevie and Alison and so many others are still dropping in now and then to steal someone's beer and get up to God knows what mischief in the cellar. Although I think God may have moved on, sadly, leaving Newtown to its fate.