Melbourne friends complete ‘world’s greatest pub-crawl’, visiting 476 pubs over 32 years

The group celebrate the end to their 32-year pub crawl. Source: Facebook
The group celebrate the end to their 32-year pub crawl. Source: Facebook

A group of friends in the Australian city of Melbourne have completed a pub crawl that began in 1983 and lasted 32 years, which saw the group visit every single pub in the city that was listed in the Yellow Pages the year that they embarked on their quest.

According to local media reports, the pub crawl began on October 15, 1983, when friends Stuart McArthur, Mick Stephens, Llewella Bates and Tim Dorgan visited their local pub in Port Melbourne for a beer.

McArthur is credited with formulating the idea for the epic pub crawl while he was supervising an exam. Bored, he leafed through a copy of the phone book on his desk and read the listings of all the pubs in Melbourne. An idea formed in his head, which he soon put to his friends: wouldn’t it be a great challenge to try and have a beer at every pub in Melbourne?

His friends agreed, and the quest began. The group had a few rules, which ensured only one beer would be consumed at each pub, presumably to allow multiple pubs to be visited each day (and indeed, the record number of visits was set on one Saturday in 1986, when 22 pubs were visited on a single day)

McArthur had a record book where the group would have the publican sign his or her name to prove they’d visited and consumed a beer. A minor disaster struck after the group visited the Windsor Hotel: the record book was left on a tram. Luckily for all, it was later found at the tram depot.

There were some other challenges along the way: one publican refused to sign the book, concerned that it was some elaborate scam by the tax office to audit his business. It took some persistence, but he was eventually convinced to sign. Another issue was a lesbian-only pub in Richmond, where the three men of the group were initially denied entry; once again, their persistence paid off and they were admitted.

What about the pubs that closed down over the years? The group had an answer for that, too. For any pubs that were listed in the 1983 directory that had since closed, the four friends would stand at the original address and drink a can of beer on the street, signing the ledger themselves.

By 1989, the group had visited all but eight pubs on their original list. But the years had taken their toll on the group. Two of the friends had dropped out, and only McArthur and Stephens remained. The regular weekend drinks became further and further apart, until the pub crawlers eventually lost contact with each other. McArthur’s record book was left on a shelf, gathering dust.

26 years passed before McArthur would pick up the book again, inspired by his own son telling him that he was going on a pub crawl with friends. McArthur retrieved the book and flipped through the hundreds of entries, recalling the quest his friends had embarked on back in 1983.

It was time, McArthur decided, to finish the pub crawl. He set up a Facebook group to share the story, and got in touch with his old friends. On October 10, the group gathered in the suburb of Carlton to visit the final eight pubs on their list, joined by a group of supporters and well wishers.

The group started at The Great Northern, and drank their way across Carlton, finishing at The Clyde, where the 476th beer was consumed and the final publican signed the groups record book. “We had an idea, and we’re finally honouring it,” said McArthur after the 32-year pub crawl came to and end. “Even a stupid idea has to be honoured.”