Mayoral Ball, Venue

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Close-up of the dance floors central stand. Sign on the side reads 'AROHA'. A four step ladder is placed at one end.
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'Swainson/Woods Collection, Puke Ariki and District Libraries'
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This is almost certainly not a bar. Rather it is a bandstand and if you look carefully there is a piano and stool on it. For one thing, it's central location would make it impossible to get a drink while the style of ballroom dancing done at the time was happening. But more significantly, in New Zealand alcohol was not allowed to be served at events with live entertainment from the 1910s until the late 1960s. There was an important court case in 1926 involving the Dixieland Cabaret (night club) in Pt. Chevalier in Auckland following numerous police raids and the eventual (temporary) closure of the establishment. The cabaret didn't serve alcohol (licencing laws of the time wouldn't allow that), but unsuccessfully claimed it was a restaurant allowing patrons to bring their own alcohol. The law of the time did not permit a dance hall or ballroom to have alcohol on site, even if the patrons brought it themselves. As the main purpose of the Auckland venue was decided by the court to be for dancing and entertainment, rather than serving food, it was deemed totally illegal to allow patrons to bring their own alcohol. For a number of years afterwards this was quite rigorously enforced through most of NZ. However, by the late 1940s - especially in places out of the bigger centres and despite the law remaining much the same, times were changing and the police were more likely to turn a blind eye to the "car" outside that seemed very popular and was "secretly" serving alcoholic refreshment to those who wanted it.. A generation of servicemen and women who had served abroad where the drinking habits were more liberal, brought new attitudes and expectations back to New Zealand when they came home. There are countless stories from the '20s to the '60s of both dancers and musicians smuggling some "sly grog" in to dances. Suppers (strictly not alcoholic) were usually provided thought at most dances (often supplied by the patrons "Ladies a Plate") but usually served from either a side supper room or a table at one end of the hall. They tended more towards sandwiches, cakes and sausage rolls with a cup of tea. Interestingly from a modern perspective, it seems odd that alcohol was banned but smoking was commonplace at most dances and many old musicians recall hardly being able to see the dancers as they looked out from the bandstand over a cloud of thick cigarette smoke.

- Brett Lowe on 06-05-2021 05:41:47

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