THE KINGSTON HOTEL

Address: 73 Canberra Avenue, Griffith ACT 2603

VENUE OVERVIEW

Located in Griffith, the Kingston Hotel is a Canberran Institution. Lovingly referred to by locals as ‘the Kingo’, the Kingston Hotel provides two bars and two bistros for all of your food and drink needs.

If you find that the bar doesn’t quite have what you are looking for, you are more than welcome to head for a short stroll to the bottle shop which forms part of the Kingston Hotel precinct and bring alcohol into the premises, albeit for a small fee.

The Kingston Hotel plays many roles, with restaurant beloved by Canberra families looking for traditional Aussie pub food. However, if you are looking to run into people from all political persuasions, any time after 8pm on a sitting day will give you your best chance given the sitting hours of Parliament.

Further information: https://kingstonhotel.com.au/

HISTORY

The Kingston Hotel is a building steeped in political history, with the Kingo being the first hotel built in the Federal Capital Territory after its creation in 1908. The construction of the Kingo coincided with the abolishment of the prohibition of sale in the Federal Capital Territory.

The Kingston Hotel has been operating continuously since 1936 and has played a pivotal role in many of Australia’s key political events throughout history.

The Kingston Hotel is closely associated with the defection of former Soviet Union diplomat, Mr Vladimir Petrov in 1954. The Kingston Hotel was located directly opposite to the former Soviet Embassy and was used by Petrov as a place to meet with Australian agents in the led up to his formal defection from the Soviet Union.

The defection of Petrov also had great ramifications for the Labor Party, with the tension between pro- and anti-communist sections of the party. This tension saw the ALP split into the ALP consisting of those loyal to then leader the Hon Herbert ‘Doc’ Evatt and the anti-communist supporters which eventually evolved into the Democratic Labor Party.

This split played a pivotal role in the election of the Hon Robert Menzies as Prime Minister. Mr Menzies would go onto to be Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, serving for 17 years between 1955 and 1972.

The Kingo has also been recognised as the venue that commenced the ‘36 faceless men’ campaign which faced the Labor Party in 1963, after former Labor Leader, the Hon Arthur Calwell and his Deputy Leader who would go onto be Prime Minister, the Hon Gough Whitlam, were pictured outside the Kingston Hotel. The picture taken by journalist Mr Alan Reid was then subsequently published in the Daily Telegraph and the term ‘faceless men’ was born.

More recently, the Kingston Hotel has been the site for many political triumphs, including serving as the venue for the celebrations following the passage of the same-sex marriage legislation in 2017. The Kingston Hotel was the backdrop for that famous photograph between ACT Chief Minister, the Hon Andrew Barr and Labor’s Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator the Hon Penny Wong. You can see the image here.

For more information on the significance of the Kingston Hotel in Canberra and on Australian politics, read the Canberra Times’ three-part series on the Kingston Hotel here.

WHY SHOULD YOU BE DRINKING HERE?

If you are looking to run into political types, a drink at the Kingo is a no brainer. This is Canberra’s political hotspot and remains true to its history.

The day-to-day of politics has been intrinsically to the Kingston Hotel throughout its 83-year history, and it appears that this is not going to change any time soon with the Kingo still serving as the place of choice for those in Parliament House.

If you haven’t had a late night at the Kingo during a parliamentary sitting week, you are missing out not only on the perfect opportunity to run into political types but more broadly on an experience that is quintessentially Canberra.

Look out in the coming weeks as we continue our mini-series into the notable bars in Canberra and why you should be drinking at these places on the run-in to 2020.

Finally, if you need a place to have dinner prior to drinks, read our thoughts on ten places to eat in Canberra here and keep a look out for our thoughts in the coming week on another ten places to eat in Canberra.