It has been in the Ray family for 45 years, but that tradition is about to end with the arrival on the market of the New Ivanhoe hotel in Blackheath.
The family patriarch Vic Ray had been a coal miner on the south coast but, forced to retire at 58, he leased the Gardners Inn, Blackheath’s other pub. He then moved to the Royal Standard in Sydney before buying a lease on the Ivy, as it is affectionately known, with his wife Sybil in 1976.
A year later, they were able to buy the full property.
Their children – Dennis, Kerrie and Dale – have on many occasions helped their parents run it, doing everything from collecting glass to harvesting beers to planting the garden.
But Kerrie Ray has now decided to sell, ending her own nearly 50-year advertising career.
She started behind a bar in 1973 to help Vic. At the time, she was working in Sydney as an investigative cartoonist, but came to Blackheath at weekends.
“I wasn’t very keen on going up because I was having a good time in Sydney, but then I took the plunge,” she said.
Vic was “very, very popular”. One evening a patron had drunk a little too much but there was a problem – he had arrived at the pub on horseback. Vic knew how to ride a horse so he argued with a sober local to drive the guy home while he rode.
Ms Ray also recalled in the 1980s the “Monday night club”, a regular get-together with other locals.
“In the end, no one was going to work on Tuesdays, so we decided to cancel it.”
The Ivy has always supported the community, acting as a venue for birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations and also hosting many wakes, serving “Kerrie’s funeral finger foods”.
The pub is used as a gathering place by various groups including knitters, Scrabble players, folk clubs and ukulele players. He was always available if the community needed a gathering place.
“It wasn’t hard – we had all the food here anyway – and it went up tenfold,” Ms Ray said. “We were very well supported by the locals.”
She didn’t have to evict too many rowdy patrons – “we have an elderly clientele” – but recalls how in the past women would call to find out if their husbands supported the bar. Ms Ray was reluctant to lie to women but “I would encourage them [the men] to get home as soon as possible”. She was relieved that the arrival of mobile phones meant “they had to tell their own lies”.
Ms Ray does not know where she will be living with her partner, Bruce Pelchen, when they leave the pub. They have an RV, which looks inviting, she said.
“We might leave to avoid part of the winter, but I’ll still be around Blackheath.”
The Ivanhoe is open to expressions of interest with JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.