It’s a fantasy that most of us have had. You’re renovating your home, you smash a mallet through a wall, you’re just about to swing again, but something catches your eye, a tin or small box. You open it to find it stuffed full of money or jewelry. Jackpot! But after visiting The Star Hotel in the Old Port of Echuca my expectations have been raised. A stash of cash will no longer fulfill me. When I pull up the old floorboards I want to find a whole pub hidden beneath my home.
The Star Hotel was converted into a private residence and a family lived there for 40 years until the mid 1970’s without ever knowing about the illegal bar under their floorboards or the escape tunnel leading to the back alley of the hotel. It was not until the building was sold to the City of Echuca in 1973 that the concealed watering hole was re-discovered.
The cellar bar was called ‘The Shades’ and was originally built to let drinkers escape the heat of an Echuca summer however after the hotel lost its licence in 1897 the owner continued to serve drinks in the underground bar with patrons using the escape tunnel if needed. Legend also has it that a second escape tunnel was also in use that ran under the street and all the way to the docks however this passageway has not been found.
The Star Hotel is now a respectable wine bar and café. The bar under the floorboards can still be visited today although it has been left in a somewhat ‘authentic’ state with a dust covered bar and wine barrels. The café does do good meals though and the court yard would be a much more pleasant place to enjoy a beverage anyway.