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April 11, 2024

Why does the Cranker need to be saved?

For those not reading past the headlines about the development threat to the Crown & Anchor hotel – it’s time to start. CityMag breaks down what's going on at the beloved East End live music venue.

  • Words: Helen Karakulak
  • Pictures: Tony Lewis

This week the Crown & Anchor has been making headlines as the Adelaide City Council and state parliament discuss its fate. 


The Crown & Anchor
196 Grenfell Street, Adelaide 5000

Mon—Sat: 12pm ’til 3am
Sun: 2pm ’til 3am


But it’s becoming clear from the comment sections that there’s been a misunderstanding. 

The Crown & Anchor – affectionately known as the Cranker – is under threat from redevelopment into a student housing block.

Unlike the many Adelaide nightlife closures we’ve seen in the past year, and venues fighting to survive during a cost of living crisis, longstanding live music venue Cranker is not at risk because of a financial threat. 

Patrick Maher, one of the organisers behind the “Save the Cranker” campaign tells CityMag that while they’re getting a lot of support, there have been some fundamental misunderstandings so far. 

“The pub is financially viable, it’s trading gangbusters,” Patrick says.

“This is a development issue, not a viability issue. 

“It’s really hard to believe that the most  – I can comfortably say the most successful, the most competent local live music venue in the state – can then be lost to a development campaign instead of a sort of a financial issue.”

Last month, Singapore-based Wee Hur Holdings lodged a development application to build multi-level student housing, which includes “partial demolition and adaptive reuse” of the local heritage-listed Crown & Anchor. 

The development proposal is for 188 and 196 Grenfell Street, an area spanning Frome to Union streets, which currently houses the historic hotel as well as neighbouring Roxie’s and Chateau Apollo.

The Crown & Anchor, which also has the Midnight Spaghetti restaurant on its first floor, is owned by developer Karidis Corporation which purchased the hotel in 2016.

If the Wee Hur Holdings development is approved, the student housing block would rise in an area zoned for 15 storeys.

Wee Hur Holdings Ltd has applied to develop the area in red, which covers the Crown & Anchor site as well as neighbouring venues Roxie’s and Chateau Apollo.

What’s happened so far?

The building that houses the Cranker earned a local heritage listing in 1991. That protects the site’s ‘built form’ and facade, but not what goes on inside. 

The State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) will assess the development application. They’ve asked the Adelaide City Council, Environment Protection Authority and a government architect to provide a response to help them make their decision before granting planning consent.

The public can make submissions to the SCAP to show their support for the Cranker, but public consultation on the development plans hasn’t opened yet. 

The council’s official response to the state planning commission has been submitted as “no objection” to the development, with submitted comments that are not publicly available to view via Plan SA.

The council is only allowed to comment on the building facade and how plans measure up against the planning and design code. Currently, there is nothing in the code that emphasises preserving buildings for arts and cultural heritage reasons, so the council’s submission could not address those issues.

Crown & Anchor supporters filled the public gallery at the Adelaide City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 9. Picture: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Adelaide City Council has voted to show their support for the Cranker. Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith will write to Premier Peter Malinauskas, Arts Minister Andrea Michaels and Planning Minister Nick Champion expressing the council’s concern about the proposed development threat. 

Greens Heritage and Planning MLC Member Robert Simms has introduced a motion in parliament to protect the Crown & Anchor and call for heritage laws to be strengthened “to reflect the cultural and social value of the pub”. 

Simm’s motion will continue to be debated in the Legislative Council next week. 

The Crown & Anchor has hosted live music for more than 30 years and presents acts nearly every night. This picture: Liam Jenkins

Why is the Cranker’s cultural value so important?

Established in 1853 and rebuilt in 1880, the Cranker has a long and colourful history through wars, the Depression, a stint as a topless bar, the indoor smoking ban and the drunken antics of thousands of punters – including our CityMag team. 

What goes on inside is special to many, which is why the development application has sparked calls from the community for city planning law reform. 

The argument is that cultural value should also be taken into account when considering planning applications that impact venues like the Cranker, and the community want greater protections for spots like this. 

Patrick says this issue indicates there is something wrong with the way the legislation is set up, and part of their campaign is to call for reform to protect the cultural, social and industrial value of the music industry.


‘Save the Cranker’ campaign


He says it’s important to look at the impact the Cranker has to show this value. Their campaign has started to do so by making a video campaign with testimonies from musicians. 

“The grassroots live music industry in South Australia, it really relies on these spaces,” Patrick says. 

“We’ve heard Peter Malinauskas talking about WOMAD, Adelaide Festival, Fringe Festival, the Motorsport, Gather Round, and so on, but these are all FIFO level.”

While Patrick says those larger events are great,  there’s a disconnect between major events with international touring acts and not a lot of local representation.  

CityMag found this to be true when we looked at festivals by the numbers, and determined on average, 25 per cent of all acts booked across major SA festivals in 2023 were local acts with some festivals having as few as one local act.

“You don’t get to become a touring act without cutting your teeth at places like the Crown & Anchor first,” Patrick says.

“I think we only had one or two Adelaide bands playing [at WOMAD], and one of them was Druid Fluids; they played at WOMAD, the week after they played at the Cranker.”

A sign outside the Crown & Anchor on Grenfell Street encouraging patrons to attend the 9 April City Council meeting. This picture: David Eccles/InDaily.

The community campaign 

Patrick says they’ve garnered lots of support so far from musicians, punters and volunteers across social media and online petitions. They’ve also had in-person activations, with the community showing up in support at the Adelaide City Council meeting and state parliament this week. 

“We think there’s about 21,000 people, individuals who have had contact with us in some form or other,” Patrick says. 

They have about 40 volunteers working on their socials, and drafting submissions to the state commission assessment panel, as well as conducting research. 

“It’s very easy to find information about the pub from 50 years ago, to its inception, Heritage Council has done that work for us. But information from the last 50 years hasn’t really been recorded so much because that was modern history, so we’re going out there to get that.”

They’ve even tracked down a former owner who now lives in America and is happy to support the cause. 

“So we’ve got a guy who, his entire job is to basically sleep during the day and chat with him overnight,” Patrick says. 

At the time of writing, the petition to “Save the Crown and Anchor Hotel” has passed 17,380 signatures. 

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