Coopers Arms

The Coopers Arms, King Street, Newtown, Sydney

The Coopers Arms, like a lot of pubs in King Street, is a bit two faced. During the day it tends to be somewhat of an old man's pub - people playing the pokies and sitting down, often by themselves at what seems to be the crack of dawn, to a sad, lonely beer.  In fact, the pub is the earliest opener in King Street - at 7.00am.  This means that one can sometimes see Hospital staff enjoying a quiet one at the end of their shift. 

But come night time and the place comes alive.  Patrons rush in their tens to enjoy the Coopers Ale on tap, a rarity in these parts, and to enjoy David Cooper's hospitality.  The inside of the pub isn't anything spectacular in itself, but, with a juke box, a pool table and James Squire on tap to relish, you can really make your own fun. 

Old blokes off for a 9.30am start...

And by all accounts the backpackers who live at the hostel not far from the pub do make their own fun. They also relish the thursday night happy hour.  All in all a worthy stop in the Newtown odyssey

A bit further on along King Street you come to what appears from the outside to be the granddaddy of them all - the Newtown Hotel.

The Newtown Hotel

The pub is separated into two main bars, somewhat boringly called Bar 1 and Bar 2.  Bar 1 is plain enough, but Bar 2 is noted for two things: one, its piano, and two, its patrons.  It is by all accounts a gay bar. Which, in Newtown, isn't strange at all (although for other parts of Australia it still is).

The final pub on our Newtown odyssey is the Hotel Marlborough.

The last stop on King...

There isn't much to say about this pub. It seems oddly out of place in Newtown, appearing a bit suburban.  There is a restaurant out the back which always reviews well, but locals report that they find it a bit pricey.  You will find late night bands playing, although again the locals report that they tend to be mainstream cover bands.

All in all this portion of King Street Newtown is a very satisfying to a lover of Australian pubs and culture.  Here you will find everything there is to find about Australian big city pubs and the people who inhabit them.  The people won't be as friendly as they are in the outback, but if you have a few good mates and a nice hot day then you won't do much better than this in an international city. Enjoy!

Note: Jon Kok wrote in on 25 November 2004 to report the following:

Hi folks,

Saw your site when I was investigating new and interesting things to do to my range of home brews. I noticed your section on Pubs in Newtown in Sydney, and had a look. Things to note are: the Oxford changed its name a year or two back and became Zanzibar, and there are also another two pubs further down King St towards St Peters called the Union Hotel and the Sandringham Hotel, and another on King St near Erskineville Rd called Kelly's on King. Also, most of the pubs have had substantial face lifts since your articles were done. Might be worth another visit.

Also, for those who have partaken in the PGA tours (Piss Guzzlers Association) there is the Newtown Nine. Beginning at the Marlborough, moving on to the cocktail bar Kuletos (which has a lady's tee - a less potent drink may be substituted if not going for the main trophy) and thence the Newtown (which has a water hazard - no toilet stops). Then on to the Coopers, Kelly's, Zanzibar and the Courthouse (lady's tee) and then back up to the Bank (lady's tee) and the Townie.
Also, there is a Newtown 18, which adds three pubs in Erskineville, the Sandringham and Union Hotels, and the Golden Barley, Sly Fox, Duke of Edinburgh and @Newtown (the former Newtown RSL) on Enmore Rd.

Jon Kok
(Newtown Resident and Sydney Uni PGA Secretary)

Mike Marton wrote in on 12 October 2006 to give us a further update:

Newtown is a truly excellent beer scene.

The usual industrial products are on tap, as well as Coopers Red and Green, Cascade Pale, St Arnou Blonde, Guinness - and Malt Shovel Brewery libations are sometimes sighted. Many pubs have upwards of 20 bottled brands in the fridge. Bars are open extended hours and, because of fierce competition, prices are reasonable, especially compared with the City.

Well serviced by bus and rail, it is easy to get to and equally easy to escape from. Taxis can be readily hailed in King street at any hour of the day or night, although if you are looking drunk and disorderly they may choose not to stop. If the worst comes to the worst, it is a 40 minute stagger to Central Station district of the City, where there are abundant backpacker hostels.

In mentioning the Sando and the Union (the latter recently extended with huge back lounge bar/restaurant) in south King St, Jon missed two pubs further along: the Botany View and the Sydney Park (all in that order). The Sando is traditionally a big live rock music venue, although it recently changed hands and I'm not sure what it's doing right now. Worth taking a look.

The Marly, at the other end of the street, has been extended with upstairs bars and outdoor beer gardens.

Coopers Arms recently changed hands and has just started a 6 month renovation which will apparently provide food and another bar upstairs instead of backpackers' rooms (bar still open throughout). The Bank is about to reopen after being closed for 12 months for gutting and internal rebuilding. Drinks might consequently have become expensive - we will see.

In back streets near the Courthouse Hotel (which is in Australia street, west off King opposite the Bank Hotel - intersection blocked to other than pedestrians and emergency vehicles, and in the blocked off section is a young olive tree, gift of the city of Athens to commemorate the 2004 Olympic torch relay which passed by that spot) is the Carlisle Castle (corner of Probert and Albemarle streets) with really ornate traditional front bar. Like much heritage material and many of the people in Newtown it bears an occasional scar. Two tiles from the front vertical surface of the bar have disappeared.

Then along Enmore road into Enmore (off King street opp Newtown rail station, heading west) are @Newtown, The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queens, the Sly Fox (specialises in late night entertainment with a bit of an edge) and, at the end of the strip, the Warren View. Turn left at the crossroads where the Warren View is and in a few hundred metres, you'll come to the Golden Barley - recently upgraded kitchen and beer garden and very much a neighbourhood pub. Head back east along Alice Street (opposite the Barley) to south King, then turn right to the Union etc.

The three Eskineville pubs (in Erskineville road east off King St almost opposite the Kelly's on King Irish tavern - which used to be a McDonalds but couldn't compete with all the ethnic cafes lining King St) are the Imperial (briefly featured in the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, for reasons that will be apparent to late evening visitors), the Erko, probably the most traditional un-tarted-up but tidy "community neighbourhood pub" in the area), then the Rose of Australia - reportedly such a tourist destination that locals don't go there so much anymore.

Keep heading along Erskineville road across the railway line (it has now become Swanson street) into Alexandria/Redfern - but that's a whole new drinking scene, with another half dozen pubs or more within a 20 minute walk.

Every pub has its own atmosphere, choice of beers on tap and prices, which change from daytime to evening, Most offer reasonable food. But you'll find that the locals move around. Many don't stick to the one pub all the time, but choose on a day-by-day basis to match their mood.

Newtown-Enmore is about as far west as the nineteenth century expansion of metropolitan Sydney stretched. Many of the houses were tiny three or four room workers' cottages in which large families of the time lived under remarkably cramped conditions. In those days, the pubs of the district really were public houses - where the men went to socialise, have a beer and get out from under wives' feet. Today if you stroll through the back lanes you'll spot some almost mansion-like extensions that have been grafted onto the rear of these houses, leaving front facades largely intact.

But the pubs are still popular. If none of them appeal there are probably 50 cafes and restaurants in the area where you can order something to eat and a bottle of beer: Japan, Thai, Singapore, Sweden, whatever. There are plenty of BYOs (some limited to wine only - check first), and bottle shops in Enmore (3) and Erskineville (2) roads and King street (4). On a fine day or early evening you might even buy a few twisties and some Indian, Thai, Chinese or Turkish takeaway - or even a gourmet meat pie or burger - and repair to Camperdown Rest Park (off Australian street) or Green Bans Park (off Erskineville Road) for a picnic.

Pub evening price increases may occur anywhere between 6 pm and 9 pm, depending on the venue. Be careful though. You can spend a bucket-load of money late at night getting stuck into the cocktails in some of the bars. There are various happy hour deals around in late afternoon and early evening, but they tend not to be advertised. You can find them by (as enthusiastic beer drinkers should) stumbling over them.




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