Although the Governor in January 1846, ‘was pleased to declare Jerringong, Kiama and Dapto places at which beer may be sold in quantities not less than two gallons’ and again four years later declare the same for ‘spirits’, it was not until 8 December, 1857, when William Lang secured a Publican’s Licence and opened the ‘Jerringong Arms’ in the now vacant premises ‘formerly occupied by the Messrs. Ritchie, as a Post Office General Store’, that Jerringong had its first Hotel.(Site now: Miller’s Arcade).
However, Lang soon found attracting patronage hard- yakka and was forced to supplement his income in other ways. Unlike the Gerringong Council which in 1885 proclaimed: - ‘Gerringong has no natural scenery sufficiently striking to command any attention amongst the magnificent views that can be found in other localities in which Nature has been more lavish with her favours ‘, Lang went out of his way to encourage tourism. After revamping the ‘Jerringong Arms’ as the ‘Lanterrick Hotel’ in 1861, he advertised in the Sydney papers stating that ‘the Scenery in the vicinity is of the highest order, and is not to be surpassed by any on the Southern Coast.’ Following a slight set-back when the Hotel was severely damaged by lightning a month after opening, Lang had to then contend with competition from Michael.F.Egan’s ‘Dairyman’s Inn’ which opened at Omega Lane. Then major upheaval erupted throughout the District in 1863 when Lang, after recommending his niece Julia Acherson for the vacant position of Postmistress at the Gerringong Post Office, had her operate it from his hotel once she was appointed. Sadly, Lang was declared insolvent in 1867 - R. Miller J.P. became the Lanterrick’s new owner and William Hines the Licensee.
Gerringong Municipal Council was proclaimed in 1871 and held its Meetings in an adjoining building to the Hotel. Tragically, in July 1872, a stump-fire lit by the Nelson boys in Willow Vale, flared out of control. Roaring across the dense scrub in an easterly direction it soon had Gerringong at its mercy. With no town water available, the courageous residents were powerless to stop its fury. In next to no time the fire had devoured houses, shops, the C.of E. Church and School as well as the Lanterrick Hotel.
In what must surely be the shortest life-span of any ‘public-house’, the second ‘Gerringong Arms’ (site now: unknown) opened in November, 1894. Licensed to John T. Milligan it was forced to close in February, 1875 after numerous brawls, mass destruction and total mayhem became the order of the day - maybe it was just the local farm-hands faithfully following the Government’s edict of buying liquor in quantities of ‘no less than two gallons at any one time’. In any case, God-fearing Gerringong just couldn’t cope with such ‘ominous signs of a “Whisky-war”.’ Frederick Phillips, from Charcoal (Unanderra), arrived later in 1875 and built the ‘Ocean View Inn’ and Library. This solid Colonial Georgian building was constructed of blue-metal blocks and mostly lined with cedar - today only its central section remains. (Site now: Scoops and Cherry Red). Phillips’ Liquor Licence, granted in 1875, was held till 1899.
Until the arrival of the railway in 1893, the Inn was a staging-post for the six daily Kiama to Nowra and back Stage-Coach runs. Meals were provided for passengers as the horses were changed. T.A.Noble purchased the building in 1912 and ran it as an accommodation house. The balcony we see at the front today, was built in 1916.
When the construction of the Kiama to Bomaderry rail link was about to commence in the late 1880s, many landholders hoped for a rapid township expansion around the proposed Railway Station. Hindmarsh’s Alnedale Estate came on-line in 1890. The first building erected on it was John Honey’s Hotel on the corner of Campbell and Belinda Sts. Later that year, Honey sold the hotel and Licence to Henry Russell – Russell’s Hotel (1891-1894) who then on-sold it to Peter Murphy – Murphy’s Hotel (1895-1898). In 1899, Thomas Bergin who worked for Murphy, purchased the Licence and leased the Hotel for a few years before purchasing it outright – Bergin’s Gerringong Hotel.
As with Lang and the Lanterrick, Tom initially found business a little slow so in order to supplement his income, he built saleyards adjoining the Hotel (Site now: Squash Court) for livestock dealing. When Thomas died in 1918, the Licence passed to his son Bill.
Bill was a true entrepreneur and in short time the hotel had: (a) the first phone in town – you simply requested - 1. (b) one of Gerringong’s first cars. (c) the township’s first petrol Bowser in 1926. (d) its own electricity – 11 years before Gerringong was officially connected in 1928. Bill purchased his own generator to run the 50 or so lights. (e) the District’s first wireless set. (f) Gerringong’s first car hire.
When Bill died in 1950, the Hotel’s Licence transferred to his wife Molly. With Molly’s death in 1968 it passed to her son-in-law, John ‘Jack’ Cronin – Cronin’s Hotel. After Jack’s passing in 1997 it was handed on to his son Mick who holds the current Licence.
Over the years the Gerringong Hotel, a stalwart of the community, has undergone many extensions and renovations. Nearby Bergin Street is named after the Bergin family.
Written and Researched by Kevin Jewel.