The end of the Annandale
A fond farewell to an Inner West icon

Annandale G

From secret gigs to album launches, from on-stage meltdowns to bass players collecting glasses, the Annandale Hotel was a mainstay of the Sydney Music scene from the 1980s on. Headlining acts could be local or international, finding their feet or mid world-tour. The Annandale now lies dormant, a victim of economics, neighbourhood gentrification and, most recently, the COVID-19 lockdown. There are stories to be told, gigs to mythologise, and hangovers to regret. Folk has been there for a few of them.

And to say that the ‘Dale was convenient to Folk would be to discount the dimly lit interior, the sticky carpet and the notoriously unhygienic toilets as its most attractive feature, but it was literally just on the corner, and became the de facto social centre of Folk.

Annandale C

Got time for one?

On more than one occasion, that quick drink after work on a Friday morphed into a sweaty crowd waiting for the headliners to take the stage sometime after 11pm. The Annandale played host to Folk welcomes and farewells, birthdays and anniversaries, one infamous Christmas party, and more Thai lunches than Uber Eats could deliver in a lifetime.

Wok ‘n’ Roll (really?) served up the Thai lunches which, for a time, appeared to be the staple diet of more than a few creatives at Folk. Never let anybody undersell the idea of the loyalty card - a free drunken noodle with chicken was infinitely better than the nine that preceded (and paid for) it.

And the music?

We’re not going to run through a laundry list of all the magnificent bands that played the Annandale in its heyday, let’s just agree that if you can’t find something here to light your fire then I don’t know if we can still be friends.

But nothing lasts forever and by around 2010 the Annandale (in its indie guise) seemed to be on the verge of collapse. The owners’ pokie-free policy coupled with limited trading hours (due to noise restrictions) was unsustainable, and the ‘Buy-a-Brick’ campaign (look for Folk’s plaque) could only prolong the inevitable. Bankruptcy and closure followed in 2013. Subsequently bought by a large hospitality chain, the pub was refitted and rebranded as a home to Country and Bluegrass music, an array of craft beers and a pop-up burger joint. The Annandale was looking to attract a more diverse crowd.

And Folk gave it a shot. It may not have been what it was, but it was still where it was. A few good nights were had but Folk seemed to be more a part of the old Annandale than the new. The ‘Dale had moved on, or had Folk? “It’s not you, it’s me”. Perhaps these relationships have a finite life anyway.

Annandale B

And then 2020 happened.

With the lockdown cutting a swathe through the non-essentials of life (and some essentials – hello toilet paper) the Annandale shut its doors in March with a view to reopening in September. But a discreet sign posted in a window of the front bar noted that the hotel licence had been transferred. The next day the pokies were loaded onto a truck and that was that.

A real estate broker’s sign proclaiming ‘Hotel-Opportunity’ was met with resignation around these parts and the expectation that the pub will soon be converted to New-York loft style apartments, no doubt with a nod to its past glories, and cleaner bathrooms.

Written by:
Chris Magus,
Finished Artist