One of the most instantly identifiable and iconic venues in St Kilda is the Esplanade Hotel or ‘Espy’. Originally built as the New Bath Hotel in 1856, it was demolished in the 1860s, and rebuilt in 1878. In 1921 alterations were made, changing it from exclusive residential use for the wealthy to incorporate entertainment for the middle classes, with the addition at the ground floor of a grand staircase and lounge bar

The Espy was set to become one of the largest and most prominent 19th century resort hotels in VictoriaBetween 1920 and 1925, the Eastern Tent Ballroom constructed to the rear of the site became an important jazz and dance venue, then the main entertainment district in Melbourne. In the 1970s, the Hotel's Gershwin Room, a grand dining room, was turned into a disco - complete with a flashing Saturday Night Fever-style dance floor.

The Espy was a popular drinking spot for many St Kilda residents and local punks such as the crew from the band I Spit on Your Gravy (formed in 1983); in fact, lead singer Fred Negro became the Espy cleaner in 1984 and was also doing the Espy handbills as well.

In 1984 I Spit on Your Gravy issued a 12” EP titled ‘St Kilda's Alright’, with the cover photo being taken on the steps of the Espy. The EP included a ten-page booklet titled Suck This Fred Nile, that local police declared was “obscene” and confiscated all available copies due to Negro's “debauched” cartoons and photocopied pornographic images. As for the music itself, music historian Ian McFarlane declared it was “desperately inept and sounded like it had been recorded at the bottom of a dam.”

Click HERE to view 'St Kilda's Alright' EP
Click on the PDF below to read memories about The Espy by people who were there...

Hotel Esplanade (The Espy).pdf Hotel Esplanade (The Espy).pdf
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Images:
  • Main Image - I Spit on Your Gravy photo for the cover of 'St Kilda's Alright' EP, 1984 - Photo by Joe Holzer
  • Background Image - Espy gig flier,1984 - Source: Fred Negro
  • Hotel Esplanade, 1955 - 1988 - Sources: Fred Negro, Joe Holzer, Colin Holst, State Library of Victoria, Port Phillip City Collection
Quotes:
  • Fred Negro - Source: St Kilda Music Walking Tours
Videos:
  • The Espy Story - Source: YouTube
  • 'Beer Sandwich' by The Fuck Fucks, 1997 - Source: YouTube
Websites: