Art by Brigitte Samaha
On Missenden Road, nestled between a hospital and a café, sits a small pub. The tiles lining its faded facade reflect a bygone era, long before the modern pub gentrification movement gained traction. Inside The Alfred Hotel the furnishings are shabby and worn, stained with god knows what.
The regulars call this place The Grose and, although its name is derived from bordering Grose Street, it certainly lives up to its title in appearance.
Once upon a time, every Wednesday night, college students would descend upon The Grose from their sandstone castles across the road, the aura of youth and sexual tension almost physically tangible. The tiny dining room would be converted into a dance floor, sticky with rum, coke and sweat. The pretty little courtyard out the back would be thick with the haze of cigarette smoke, and the awkward beauty of the human mating ritual would begin.
The Grose was a disgusting place. It was dirty, smelly, and racy; basically the college equivalent of Bar Century (RIP). Drinks were bought, lips locked on the dance floor, and sexual conquests were won. But all of this was part of its unique charm; it was unashamedly just good enough for students, and that kept the squares away.
Some people on campus perhaps don’t share the same opinions about the place. I remember a girl in one of my classes telling me it was a “cesspool” of drinking culture and misogyny, attended solely by privileged college students. I asked her if she’d ever been to a nightclub, what school she went to, and what suburb she grew up in. Turns out she was a tad of a hypocrite when it came to pointing fingers about privilege. The Grose was gross, but no more so than any old nightclub.
Regardless of people’s opinions on the place, the fact remains that for decades this establishment has catered to generations of students looking to “Grose ‘till close” on a Wednesday night. However, recent developments threaten the impending death of this institution.
The opening of the Queen Mary Building and the fact that The Grose is now one of the closest bars to the city not affected by the lock out laws has prompted an influx of mature aged students and creepy middle aged men. Lines suddenly extended a hundred metres up the street from a bar that was lucky to hit capacity a few months previously.
Furthermore, the sudden explosion of people trying to cram into the pub seems to have riled up their residential neighbours – a form apparently handed around to residents in the area has complained about the increased noise, drunken behaviour, and dirtiness of the streets come Wednesday every week.
Many students remember a Grose where every face was familiar. That structured community of youthful decadence and excess no longer exists, replaced instead by strange faces and anxious dancing between unwelcome revellers.
As the loyal student culture of The Grose fades, an institution dies. The Grose is a shell of its former self and, although I doubt it will experience the same fate as the Lansdowne, there will come a day when it is simply The Alfred Hotel once again.
I am reminded of a quote by Edna St Vincent Millay: “My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends – it gives a lovely light!” dancing between unwelcome revellers.