New bar to help rejuvenate Camp St atmosphere

Secret history: Tara Poole in the Lost Ones bar, a former Masonic dining hall and SEC social club. Picture: Kate Healy.
Secret history: Tara Poole in the Lost Ones bar, a former Masonic dining hall and SEC social club. Picture: Kate Healy.

As part of the revitalisation of Camp Street culture, a new bar is opening in the art precinct.

Located under the Lost Ones contemporary art gallery in a former Masonic Lodge, the Lost Ones Basement Bar has quite a few stories of it’s own to tell of the history of Ballarat, says owner and manager Tara Poole.

The Basement Bar is a haven of wide couches, leather armchairs, low lights and open fires. 

“We've been thinking about doing this for probably the last two years, and the last six months has essentially been organising ourselves to get to this point, says Ms Poole.

“The opening hours will be 11am to 11pm Wednesday to Sunday We'll match the hours of the gallery, but also allow people an opportunity to come after work or on the weekends.”

The bar space is lined and paneled, and resembles an old and majestic dining room, which is exactly what it was.

“This is the Masonic dining hall, and this is probably where the real negotiations took place – not that we have any record of that,” says Ms Poole.

“It's got the original seating around the outside, which is probably where the lesser Masons were asked to sit. The original poles are sadly not entirely here, we've got two remaining.

These magnificent girders we have across the top are actually not original. They were probably brought in sometime around the 1920s.

They don't match, and they have interesting bits of chock, chocking them into place. The building's not going anywhere in a hurry.

This basement has seen a lot of different activities lot of different things have happened since it was owned by the Masons. 

“This is the first Masonic Lodge in Ballarat. They outgrew it in 40 years; 1870 it was actually built. By the early 1900s they outgrew it.”

The Ballarat Mason went to Peel Street (now also sold). Later they built a new hall at Lake Wendouree. Ms Poole says the State Electricity Commission bought the building after that.

“They purchased the building as an entertainment venue, a social club, for their staff. So there's lots of older Ballarat residents who still come in here with very fond memories. 

“I think there was quite a fair bit of nonsense carried on down here. We found numerous ping pong balls underneath the floorboards. And I've even had some very interesting dudes in their 70s and 80s coming in here, telling me that they practiced their punk rock in here in the 60s and the 70s - so it was used for a wide range of different things. 

“I think they had lots of fun down here. So we wanted to keep that idea; we wanted to open it up, because the ‘Lost Ones’, the name is actually designed to sort of commemorate the fact that when you put together a building like this there's always going to be a group of people who are left out, from the Masons to the State Electricity Commission to other groups who've owned the building. There's always been a group that has missed out; so for us that's the Lost Ones. Everyone can be found at the Lost Ones.”

The bar has a series of planned workshops including:

  • Painting masterclasses with Archibald Prize finalist Daniel Butterworth
  • Scotch malt whisky tasting with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • A TV production masterclass with Stephen Luby, executive producer of the ABC mini series, The Secret River
  • A showing of The Secret River to coincide with Heritage Week.

You can see the current workshops list at www.thelostones.com.au/workshops

The Lost Ones Basement Bar is having an opening night on May 4 at 7pm.