The Inns and pubs of the early years in the municipality were important places to meet up in the community and they provided the first accommodation for travellers and new arrivals in town. When Dr Robert Menzies and his wife arrived in Kiama on 3rd March 1839, the only house in Kiama was the home and hotel accommodation of David Smith, the Gum Tree Inn. Smith’s Inn was built around 1838 and was facing Manning St, on the corner with Bong Bong St, where the vacant land is now.
There was very little in Kiama when Michael Hyam established the Harp Inn at Sarah’s Valley (Jamberoo) in 1837, the first hotel south of Dapto. He also set up a tannery, boot maker, shop and his own residence. The settlement of Woodstock (North of Jamberoo) was also developing, with a flour mill, timber mill, a brewery and The Man of Kent Hotel. The Jamberoo Pub, still operating in Allowrie St, Jamberoo was built by John Tate in 1857.
Kiama started developing quickly, with the harbour providing the shipping link to Sydney, the punt operating on the Minnamurra River from 1847, enabling greater access from the north and a new road to Gerringong in 1849. With town growth came more hotels. During the 1840’s and 50’s there were at least five drinking establishments. James Marks opened the Steampacket hotel in 1842 (Brighton site, overlooking the harbour), then in the next few years came the Fitzroy Inn (eastern side of Collins Street, possibly where the Terraces are now), The Beehive Inn on the south-eastern corner of Collins and Terralong (site of the Memorial Arch), and the Fermanagh Hotel on the south-eastern corner of Shoalhaven and Terralong St. Hunts Brewery was established on Manning Street in 1858. Two hotels that are still operating in Kiama are Tory’s Hotel, built in 1888, and the Grand Hotel built in 1891. The Royal Hotel was on Terralong St, and it was destroyed by the 1899 Terralong Street fires, along with 15 other buildings. To add fuel to the temperance movement, liquor rescued from the Royal Hotel during this devastating fire, was pilfered and led to drunkenness and an inability by those thieves in assisting those affected by the fire.
Gerringong didn’t get their first hotel until ‘The Jerringong Arms’ was opened by William Lang in December 1857 on Fern Street. It was renamed the Lanterrick Hotel in 1861 and destroyed by fire in 1872. The Dairyman’s Inn opened at Omega by Michael Egan and then in 1874 a second Gerringong Arms opened and closed again several months later due to brawls, mayhem and destruction by the drinkers. The Ocean View Inn was built in 1875 on Fern Street Gerringong (where Scoops and Cherry Red shops are now) by Frederick Phillips. What is now Cronin’s Pub, was built by John Honey in 1891.
Following the growth of pubs was the growing popularity of temperance societies during the 1860’s. One of the first meetings in our community was held at the Kiama Courthouse in 1866, the scene for the many alcohol related offences heard at Kiama court. The Sons of Temperance was established in 1868. The foundation stone of the Temperance Hall was laid in March 9, 1876 by Dr Tarrant. It became the Masonic Hall in 1897. The aims of the temperance movement was to encourage total abstinence, to provide medical attendance for members and illness and death insurance. Alcohol seen to be such a problem in the early years of Australian settlement that a Permissive Liquor law was being talked about throughout the colony from 1864. The aim of this legislation was to regulate the distribution of pubs, importation of liquor, and to provide greater limits to alcohol consumption and the societal problems that resulted.
Kiama was the scene of a beer strike by local quarrymen in April 1920, due to the increase in beer prices. Up to 300 men at a time attended several rallies, but after 5 weeks, the men were back drinking in the hotels and the prices weren’t reduced.