Hospitality venues all over the country are thinking outside the box with their entertainment options in order to keep the crowds streaming through the doors.
Pubs and clubs all over Australia are feeling the pinch with fewer punters making their way through the doors and a downward trend in per capita alcohol consumption. Couple that with regulatory requirements and owners are having to get creative with their entertainment offering in order to attract new customers.
By diversifying your entertainment offering beyond the Friday night band, midweek trivia and meat tray raffles, you can broaden your customer base with unexpected faces, sometimes in traditionally quieter stretches.
In our nation’s capital, much loved club The Dickson Tradies, founded in 1964 as a home for the collection of unions that would one day become the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union), became an accidental home for the local knitting club after water damage temporarily shut the nearby library. The predominantly retired women never moved back.
“They like to chat a lot, so they were
a little bit too noisy and gregarious for the library anyway,” says Tradies receptionist Susan Fallon. “They’re quite happy here because they can spread out, make as much noise as they like and enjoy our hot food and coffee.”
As they assemble every Wednesday from around midday through to 3pm, that means plenty of extra lunch orders, but it’s not just about the receipts, Fallon notes. “I wouldn’t say our numbers are ragingly up, but it adds an ambience that everyone really loves. The regulars don’t mind it at all, because it’s not getting in the way of our busy time really, but it has created a real community spirit.”
Particularly as the Wednesday knitting club, which receives a huge amount of donated yarn, knits blankets for the geriatric ward of the local hospital and baby booties too. And it’s not just older women the knitting club has brought to the Tradies in droves. “It’s expanded to Sunday now too, from 11am to 1pm, and that meeting brings in very dynamic young ladies in their late 20s and early 30s,” Fallon adds. “They do some really cool stuff.”
A Sunday knitting club convert, Fallon would join the older ladies on Wednesday too, “But I’m working then.”
Singing for their supper
Plenty of us like to sing in the shower, but even with a drink or two in us, many would hesitate to do so in front of everyone down at the pub. Or would we? Astrid Jorgensen, the brains behind Pub Choir, may beg to differ. Starting out in Brisbane in 2017, she founded the pop-up event that goes into venues and teaches the punters how to belt out a much-loved pop tune in 90 minutes, with even the shyest getting swept up in the spirit of the night. As Jorgensen told the ABC last year, “It’s a unique thing that we’ve got going on and I think it really suits Australian culture as well.”
Having spread out across the country now and turned into a full-time gig for Jorgensen, Pub Choir has sold-out events at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
and Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass coming up, as well as continuing to take over traditional pubs like The North Gregory Hotel in Winton, Queensland.
They like to chat a lot, so they were a little bit too noisy and gregarious for the library anyway…
With noise complaints a consideration for many venues, one way to draw in a large and enthusiastic crowd without running the risk of annoying neighbours looking for a good night’s sleep is to embrace the craze for silent discos over traditional live music blowouts. Lamby’s Tavern near the
waterfront in Geelong regularly hosts quirky dance parties where punters are given Wi-Fi headsets with three channels to choose from so they can dance to their own beat, but in good company.
Going to the dogs
The Golden Sheaf in Sydney’s Double Bay has acknowledged that for all the convenience of dating apps, a little something has been lost in the romance
stakes and it’s perhaps harder than ever before to find a kindred spirit, especially without the good old-fashioned face time of a traditional first date.
Pushing back against that curve, its popular Dating with Dogs nights are designed to ensure would-be lovers have at least one major thing in common:
canine appreciation. Teaming up with The Social Dog Company and local dog rescue organisations, the ticketed events encourage folks to bring their pups, get to know fellow owners and play some fun games together, with hopefully a few numbers exchanged at the end of the event. Even better, a portion of all proceeds is donated towards dog rescue services in Indonesia.
Drawing a crowd
If you think your locals would be up for something a little more risqué, perhaps follow the lead of recently reopened iconic Melbourne venue the Espy in St Kilda. While it still hosts heaps of free live music events and comedy nights, it has also reached out to an even more creative crowd with live art events, gallery shows by local artists and drop-in life drawing classes where those with a bold eye can really make their mark sketching nude models. Quite the
eye-opener, it’s proof pubs and clubs have plenty of life left in them yet if they dare to think bigger.
This article was first published in State of Play, Issue 6, 2019