More than 5000 people have signed a petition to the South Australian Minister for Planning, Stephan Knoll, to ‘Help Save the Edinburgh Castle’.
The pub, which closed its doors earlier this year, has the oldest continuing trading licence in South Australia; people were sinking pints there in 1837, when the City of Adelaide was little more than a grid drawn on a page. Years later, The Rough Guide to Gay & Lesbian Australia (2001) cited ‘The Eddie’ as Adelaide’s “central venue for the gay and lesbian community”. Now, there are community fears that the historic venue will be bulldozed, and that the site will be the next landmark to succumb to the spread of towering student accommodation.
“The Edinburgh Castle Hotel in Adelaide’s West End risks becoming another unfortunate victim of the wrecking ball,” reads the petition. “The building is now up for sale and potentially faces its last days with real estate agents advertising it as an ‘exciting development opportunity’ with ‘high rise development potential’”. The petitioners are requesting that the Minister for Planning, Stephan Knoll, grant the property State Heritage Listing.
Some protections for the Edinburgh Castle are, already, in place. In 2013, the facade and veranda were added to the local heritage listing by previous planning minister John Rau. It is, however, within the power of the present minister to remove those protections. Despite numerous attempts to elicit a statement on the matter from Minister Knoll, The Adelaide Review did not receive a response.
Regardless, Knoll is not in a position to grant the State Heritage Listing as sought in the petition. State Heritage Listing, distinct from the Local Heritage that currently protects the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, lies outside the Minister’s bailiwick. It is, rather, overseen by the South Australian Heritage Council, chaired by Keith Conlon (of Postcards fame). According to a representative from the Council, anybody can nominate any South Australian place for consideration. At the time of publication, to the best of The Adelaide Review’s knowledge, nobody has nominated the Edinburgh Castle.
But would State Heritage Listing even be necessary to protect the pub? In short, no, according to Simon Lambert, managing director of McGees Property Adelaide, who is overseeing the sale. “The predominant interest to date has been by potential buyers looking to preserve the hotel in some form,” he tells The Adelaide Review. “It hasn’t been overseas or institutional developers looking to knock the hotel building over.”
But what about the about the ‘high rise development potential’ mentioned on the property’s listing? According to Lambert, this part of the advertisement refers to “the L-shaped land surrounding the original hotel building,” that is, the beer garden, not included in the local heritage protections, that “offers significant development potential either as part of the original hotel building or as a separate adjacent project”.
Even if the local heritage protections are kept intact, and even if further State Heritage Listing passes the Heritage Council, there won’t be a guarantee that the Edinburgh Castle will live on as a pub. Some of the tenders on the property so far have sought to reimagine the building as a hotel (the kind with beds, not bands), an office, and a corporate showroom.
There’s only one way to ensure that the place lives on as a pub, and it would set somebody back around $3 million. Petitions are well and good, but this is a Kickstarter-sized problem.
The Edinburgh Castle Hotel, 1926 (Photo: State Library of South Australia)