Craig “Futch” Futcher is an iconic part of Prince Public Bar, on par with the centrepiece bar or the art deco ceiling moulds. Behind the jump since 1996, if you have been in for a pint in the last 22 years, chances are you have seen his cheeky smile in his favourite place, parked behind the taps.
As colourful and friendly as St Kilda itself, Futch greets each customer with his signature grin, asking regulars about their lives and loved ones while seamlessly pouring their favourite brew. His easy nature and familiar rapport speak volumes for the relaxed vibe in the room and he lives by the motto “Everybody’s welcome until they make themselves unwelcome”.
Laughing and chatting, Futch recounts the old days at PPB fondly, wearing his original “The Prince” shirt he co-designed with an old PPB mate from the Van Haandel era with pride. He explains how big days at the pub were a common occurrence, the same faces pulling up a pew week in, week out.
“We didn’t need any excuse. People love to watch the passing parade. It’s the best window in Melbourne to have a drink and watch the world go by, like clowns [at a carnival] with their mouths open. And with the drag queens and all the crossdressers, they’d flash their tits at the people staring, it was awesome!”
When persuaded to divulge on a couple of the crazier stories, Futch looks over his shoulder and lowers his voice in preparation to convey the riskier details.
“This place has some crazy stories. I’ve come to work the next morning and there must have been an underpants drop that night because there were about 40 pairs of undies all over the place! And I’m just spewing I missed it, I’m saying WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?!”
Melbourne’s first gay bar, Prince Public Bar has been a constant beacon in the gay community for both locals and travellers from all corners of the globe, but as the climate of the hospitality industry changes gone as are the days of the 12-hour lock-ins and 19 cent pints.
“In the old days you’d walk out with no shoes, they’d be stuck to the floor. It used to be six deep and we were doing a hundred to 120 kegs a week. Yeah, it was busy in those days because it used to be a very popular gay bar and they just know how to party and have fun. Even if they’re not in the mood, they make themselves in the mood. ‘Me dog just died, let’s have a drrrrink.’”
The big decision to enhance the offer at The Prince has not been taken lightly but it is clear that Prince Public Bar must adapt to remain relevant to its neighbourhood and its regular clientele.
“I think it’s one of the most important corners of St Kilda, you know, I mean it’s iconic, this location, it’s not rocket science.”
Prince Public Bar called last drinks on April 28, returning in early 2020 with a new bar and restaurant, wine shop and takeaway arm. This will mark the final stage of Gerry and Andrew Ryan’s extensive overhaul of the 150-year-old Prince Hotel.