The Breakfast Creek Hotel is arguably the most famous watering hole in Queensland and probably one of the top two or three in the country. It’s more than just a venue – it’s a major destination in Brisbane, one of the best-loved in the city.
Members of the Cavill family leased the hotel for a long period, more than 70 years, much longer than the traditional period of a hotel lease. Much of the hotel’s popularity can be attributed to the stability of these lessees, which allowed traditions to develop and generated the goodwill which is essential to the success of any business.
While it’s a pub steeped in folklore, here are some of the most fascinating facts:
It was built in 1889 – in the French Renaissance style popular at the time – by a former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, William MacNaughton Galloway, whose initials appear on the front façade. It opened its doors in May 1890 and was an immediate success.
Galloway remained with the hotel until his death in 1895, after a fall from a second floor window of the hotel (the coroner found that he was drunk at the time of his death). His ghost is said to frequent the original parts of the hotel and staff have reported seeing and hearing him regularly!
In 1900, the hotel was sold to Perkins & Co, brewers. It was the time of the ‘tied house’ system and the hotel was leased to individuals who ran it on a daily basis, with product supplied exclusively from Perkins brewery in the city.
The hotel changed hands many times between 1901 and 1926, and in the 1920s another brewing company, Castlemaine, acquired the assets of Perkins & Co, creating a new company, Castlemaine Perkins, which became the registered owner of the hotel. Around about the same time, the Cavill family took up the lease and went on to hold the licence for the next 72 years, until 1998.
Alterations to the original design were undertaken in the late 1920s and 1930s, including the addition of the public bar and private bar, as well as an attached cold room. A number of innovations were also introduced in the manner in which food and drink were bought and served.
The hotel introduced many ‘firsts’ to Brisbane – including beer garden style dining (in the late 1940s or early 1950s), the outdoor kitchen where customers could choose their own steaks from a cabinet (the early 1960s) and the drive-through bottle-shop (the 1960s).
The Spanish Garden steakhouse was opened in 1968, and at first served Mexican food, but this failed to gain popularity. Barbecues were introduced the following year, at which time a steak (with Idaho potato wrapped in foil, coleslaw, tomato and a bread roll) would set you back $1.50!
In 1977, a plan to change from wooden to steel kegs was reversed by a petition to the Managing Director of Castlemaine Perkins, Paddy Fitzgerald. The Brekky Creek was allowed to keep its ‘beer off the wood’ while other hotels changed to the steel kegs. The public bar is named the Paddy Fitzgerald Bar in his honour.
The hotel remained under the ownership of Castlemaine Perkins until the mid 1980s, when it was sold to Austotel, a Victorian-based unit trust. In 1993, it was put up for sale once again, although it was passed in at $7 million and withdrawn from sale. On both occasions the Cavills’ lease remained in place. However in 1998, the Cavills’ lease expired and the hotel was taken back by Austotel, which in turn was purchased by Carlton & United Breweries.
Heritage legislation was introduced in 1992 and the hotel was entered into the Queensland Heritage Register.
Today, the hotel is owned and operated by the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which in 2003 invested $4.5 million in returning the Breakfast Creek Hotel to her former glory, with a modern twist – a redevelopment project which has won plaudits all round for its marriage of the old and the new.
Beer Garden, Spanish Garden, Substation no.41, Rum Bar, Private Bar, Public Bar, Gaming Lounge and Staghorn Bar
Restaurant facilities and a coffee van // Explore the Spanish Garden, Substation No.41, Private, Public and Staghorn bars.