Petrel Hotel reopens, so we’re ‘on the beers’!



The venerable Petrel Hotel in Geelong West reopened her hospitable doors this week after a COVID-enforced 74-day closure.


In so doing it joined golf, fishing, driving lessons and consensual sex with non-residential partners as lawful options for recreational pleasure in Victoria.


Curious readers may also wish to note it is the only one of the five above options your author has indulged in – thus far at least. I shall therefore have to take the advice of others with respect to the efficacy of the other four in our post-hibernation environment.


The Petrel is Geelong’s oldest continuous hotel license dating from 1849. Yeah, a bit of gold starting to be found in Victoria back then but almost all of it an hour or two further north. And since that date it has had just the four owners: the Ballarat Brewery, CUB, Garry & Margaret Barr and now the current licensee, Andrew O’Brien.


“So then is this the first time it’s ever been closed, eh Andy?”


“Yep,” comes the confident reply.


“What about the wars and that?”




“Ah, but what about the Spanish flu?”


“Well, who’s going to correct me if I say ‘no’? Nobody around to tell the story – is there?” replies a very straight-faced publican.


A collective sigh emerges as we all sense this narrative is becoming pointless.


And so it was, on a sample visit just to inspect the place under the current protocols, your three ongoing funsters Goose, Kezza and your author decide to book in for some fully compliant mid-week fun – and with beer served to tables. How civilised.


“On the beers now, Dan – on the beers!” the cry goes up.


And, goodness gracious me, there are races to be had too at Sandown, Randwick, Doomben and Gawler. I mean, nothing more enjoyable than fully compliant mid-week beer drinking fun with some no-name Benchmark 58 class horses barely out of Maiden class by the skin of their teeth, bumbling around heavy tracks in front of empty grandstands.


“Bit of luck, eh Fawlty!” as the Major once said in the confused cock-up over Mrs Richards’ lost money.


But beer drinking and horse racing can make you hungry and, as luck would have it, the compliance agenda includes the mandatory provision of lunch.


Lots of options for our hungry punters although, sadly, it seems the Obie burger, so named after the eponymous publican, hasn’t made the post-COVID cut.


Goose is particularly disappointed as he is fond of telling anyone who will listen that it is Mrs Goose’s menu favourite. That said, Mrs Goose orders it without the bun and the cheese but with an egg and pickles added.


This curious mix’n’match formula never fails to invite comparison with the ship of Theseus paradox of my grandfather’s axe. My father changed the handle and I changed the blade so, under the strict metaphysics of identity rules of the Theseus paradox, is it still my grandfather’s axe?


Needless to say, the philosophical arguments around this whole question have filled many a rainy afternoon at the Petrel although, much to the bemusement of both Mrs Goose and Obie himself, we have yet to agree upon an answer.




However, after 74 days of driving past the front door with a sad looking “closed” sign, there are three things our licensed premises deprived trio can agree on.


Cold pub beer from well-maintained lines always tastes different to packaged beer and is much better – no, always.


Secondly, COVID has made precious little difference to Gawler. Forget about backing swoopers as it seems it will always be a leader biased track – virus or not.


But most important of all, it’s bloody terrific to see the inside of the Petrel again!




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About Roger Lowrey

Roger Lowrey is a Geelong based writer who lists his special interests as reading, writing, horse racing, Roman history and AEC electoral boundaries. Some of his friends think he is a little eccentric.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Sounds as though you are right back in your element Roger! Have one for me!

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Lovely piece, Roger! I knew the Petrel well – it was (still is, it seems) one of those old-style neighbourhood pubs of a kind that is rare these days. Members of my family used to live only a few streets away.

  3. Great stuff Roger. I love a neighbourhood pub with its evocations of sepia photographs, men in hats and horse-drawn transport.

    We are going to the pub this afternoon. I’m excited and nervous.

  4. I reckon there’s going to be a rush on tape measures as people stand in pubs (sorry, sit) constantly measuring the required 1.5m distance (unless of course its an exempt, Premier ratified, protest).

    Love it Roger. I’m going to a pub today. So excited. Its been that long I can’t remember what to do!

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Roger, what a happy tale!

    4 owners in 171 years is super impressive. I’ve never been to the Petrel, it’s now on my list.

  6. Great stuff, Roger.
    I am envious that your local has re-opened.
    I call into Geelong West on the odd occasion, but have never been into the Petrel. I must call in next time.
    Had lunch at the Barking Dog just prior to Covid.

  7. Magzzzzz says

    Great read about a great pub! Onya Obie!

  8. There are millions of pub visits each year, but I feel every one can be written about.

    I have always loved the axe question.

  9. Roger Lowrey says

    Thanks everyone. You’re very kind.

    I later remembered a few things I neglected to mention. Apparently, CUB had advised Obie the Petrel’s was the fourth largest tally in that whole scheme whatever it was called where you gave money to your local pub to help out during the closure then you redeem the value in beer at a later stage. Primary source evidence surely of how highly the locals here value the place.

    Secondly, after explaining the purpose of the photos he said to make it clearly known that all personnel at the Footy Almanac were welcome any time. Smokie I recall how you once mentioned you had driven past and intended to drop in one day. Feel free to do so. As the child bride wryly observed “he’d be unlucky to miss you.” Ouch!

    Oh yeah, and after our shenanigans the other day Andy drove us all home while his other staff cleaned up in preparation for the evening shift. Gotta be happy with that!


  10. Tony Johnston says

    Great story Roger, and so true about the clean lines.. in my experience doubly true for Carlton Draught… hopefully the Obie burger isn’t too far away

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