In 1997 Australian band The Superjesus won two Aria Awards for Best Debut Single and Best New Talent. In 1998 they won Best Rock Album.

Just three years earlier, they’d been struggling to garner interest in their music from pubs in their hometown of Adelaide. 

That was until the iconic Crown and Anchor gave them a start.

“We had demo tapes, we had put it out all over Adelaide, and the Crown and Anchor was the first one to respond and actually give us a go,” the band’s bassist Stuart Rudd told 7.30.

“That was back in ’95 — so it was kind of the launchpad really.”

The Superjesus got their start at Adelaide’s Crown and Anchor pub in 1995.(Supplied)

But the 171-year-old Adelaide pub that helped put The Superjesus on the map is now facing closure.

Singapore-based Wee Hur Holdings is proposing an 18-storey, 700-bed student accommodation tower on the site that locals affectionately refer to as the Cranker.

“We struggle in this city to find places that do develop young talent and The Cranker, you know, it’s integral to the Adelaide music scene,” Rudd told 7.30.

“It’s so important to have places like this still around in Adelaide … you can’t lose those places, they’re the stepping stones for young bands.”

The Crown and Anchor is still attracting plenty of patrons.(ABC News: Angelique Donnellan)

An architect’s drawing of the proposed high-rise redevelopment.(Supplied)

Local heritage listing doesn’t protect pub from being gutted

The Crown and Anchor has a long and colourful past and is listed as a local heritage place.  

It was first licensed in 1853 and historic incidents recorded there include the illegal sale of alcohol on a Sunday and the shooting death of a police officer in 1929. 

The Crown and Anchor pub was first licensed in 1853 and has been around for 171 years.(State Library of South Australia)

While Wee Hur Holdings plans to restore the facade, it says the interior holds no heritage value and will be gutted with a cafe, gym and student laundry on the ground floor instead.

The development application will be considered by the state’s planning commission.   

Wee Hur Holdings didn’t respond to 7.30’s questions about the proposed demolition of the pub and live music space. 

The pub’s looming demise has prompted anger and an outpouring of support from patrons and the music community. 

At the weekend, more than 1,000 people attended a rally to save the old pub.

The venue remains popular with many music fans, who want it saved.(ABC News: Angelique Donnellan)

Patrick Maher helped organise the rally as a member of the Save The Cranker campaign.

“The Crown and Anchor is probably the most popular live music venue in Adelaide. Seven days a week, you can get some form of live performance here,” he said.

“This place is not in financial trouble. It’s trading really well.

Patrick Maher is a Crown and Anchor regular and member of the Save the Cranker campaign.(ABC News: Carl Saville)

“The [development] would mean the end of The Cranker as we know it, there would be no more live music, there’ll be no more pub.”

Mr Maher said The Cranker formally opened a live music space in 1994. 

In 2015, Adelaide was formally recognised as a City of Music by UNESCO.

“We’ve had heavy metal, thrash metal, rock, punk, anything you can imagine that’s guitar-based, or piano-based. We’ve had it here,” he said.

Kitchen Witch is one band that’ll be severely impacted by the closure of The Cranker. Lead singer Georgie Cosson and drummer Ed Noble told 7.30 they’d played more than 50 gigs at the pub since their inception in 2013.

“I think it’s the fact that you can play here if you’re a band just starting off. You can play here if you’ve got a name, if you’re an international band,” the bandmates said.

Desert rock band Kitchen Witch has played more than 50 gigs at the Crown and Anchor since 2013.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

“It’s from grassroots right through until you get to the point where this room is too small.”

The band knows the importance of a pub like the Crown and Anchor at a time when live music venues are in decline.

“You can’t just go straight to being a professional touring act, or getting constant airtime on Triple J or anything like that,” Noble said.

“It’s places like this that actually allow bands to build themselves up to that level where they can become an international name.”

Live music venues shutting across the nation

Should the Crown and Anchor shut it will join more than 1,300 live music venues and stages nationwide which have closed since the start of the pandemic, according to music rights organisation APRA AMCOS.

The Cranker hosts live music seven days a week.(ABC News: Angelique Donnellan)

Advocates are calling for more recognition of the value of pubs like The Cranker. 

Last year, the federal government pledged $70 million to set up Music Australia — an organisation to invest in the development and promotion of Australian music.  

“A pledge like that is great. But let me know when they turn up, you know, we’re facing this problem now,” Mr Maher told 7.30.

“We’ve been begging for support since 2020 and it’s nice that it’s coming, but if they wait too long, there won’t be anything left to save.”

Thousands of Adelaide residents have joined the fight to save the historic pub.(ABC News: Olivia Mason)

Greens say SA heritage laws are flawed

Greens MP Rob Simms told 7.30 the state’s heritage laws don’t recognise the cultural and social value of a site and they need reform.

“I think the community wants to see places like the Crown and Anchor protected, not just because of the architecture and design of the building, but because they’re of such intrinsic value to our culture and our community,” Mr Simms said.

“I think the campaign is really shaping up as a David and Goliath fight. We’ve got on the one hand, the developer, and on the other, we’ve got a broad coalition of the community.

Greens MLC Rob Simms says South Australia’s heritage laws need reform to better protect historic buildings.(ABC News: Carl Saville)

“I believe the community can win this fight but we need the government to stand with us and step up.” 

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said the government wasn’t currently prepared to step in.

“What some people are calling for, including the Greens, is a knee-jerk response from the government,” the premier said.

“What they’re talking about is a direct intervention on behalf of the state, effectively telling a landlord what they can and can’t do in terms of who occupies the building.

“That would be a pretty draconian step in a market economy.”

A way forward?

But the premier, who went to The Cranker during his uni days, is backing another way forward. 

SA’s Premier Peter Malinauskas says a permanent heritage listing could secure the future of the pub as it stands today.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

The local heritage-listed pub is now under assessment for a permanent state heritage listing, which could secure its future as a live music venue.

A decision is due in September.

“State heritage listing has already been provided on a provisional basis,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“We have reason to believe that its application for permanent state heritage listing is meritorious and then that will go to the preservation of the building as we know it. 

“It’s hard to see how it could be used for anything else but being a really good pub that can accommodate live music.”

Advocates say regardless of what happens with the state heritage listing they’ll keep fighting.

Superjesus bassist Rudd said the campaign to save the venue was about more than one pub’s future.

“There is a lot of talent out there, and it’s just not being heard.  So we need to encourage people to keep these doors open and have live music,” he said.

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