The Hillcrest Tavern, located on the corner of Clyde and York St's, was once a great venue for live bands. Opening in 1969, until 1984 the pub was known as The Tavern Hillcrest, but to students at the time it was more commonly referred to as simply the Tavern, or for a time H-Block - a block the University of Waikato has had on its building plans since its inception (between G-and I-blocks), but still lacks to this day. By the 1990s the bar changed its name from The New Hillcrest Tavern to simply The Hillcrest Tavern. By this time the terms the Tavern and H-Block had largely faded from the student vocabulary, being replaced by The Hilly. Into the late-1990s, The Hillcrest was becoming less popular with the student population, who began to migrate into the city in greater numbers.
Their support for local music was shown in 1993, when they offered $1000 in prize money to initiate the first Contact 89FM Battle of the Bands. It was also the venue for the inaugural Band Experiments in 2000. Many touring acts also played here, typically supported by local bands. Notable international acts playing here included Midnight Oil (August 1979) and Australian Crawl (February 1983). The bar did occasionally feature more dubious entertainment, however, including "Wet T-shirt" contests, "Body Painting" and "Mud Wrestling", and reputedly even "Midget Throwing" was at least planned (if not undertaken).
Factors contributing to its demise included the university population outgrowing the size of the bar, and the closing time of midnight enforced by its location in a residential area. The Hillcrest, or whichever name you remember it by, was destroyed in 2006 to build a shopping complex.
In late October 2007, a new bar has opened in the complex, named The Hilly. However, it was opened without provision for bands to play due to residential noise restrictions.
- Last Pint for Hilly, Hamilton Press, 7 December 2005
- Hillcrest tavern back in business, Waikato Times, 17 August 2007