"There's a fraction too much friction" Tim Finn
Today's piece was inspired by Michael Harden's book, Melbourne; The Making of a Drinking and Eating Capital and references the foreward written by the late great John Cain, who premiered and championed change in our industry in the '80s. He engaged enlightened thinker, John Niewenhuysen a Melbourne University Economist, to challenge traditional thinking and propose radical change. It was these men, who ploughed the barren land, to create fertile soil for us to grow. We need thinking like this now. Wholistic thinking for the industry to grow, not factional farmers who are pushing their own barrow.
The story of our industry can be traced back to the 'grog' shops of the gold fields in the 1850's. The liquor industry (we prefer the more moderate title, Hospitality) held an 'iron grip' from colonial days and forged an unlikely, long standing alliance with the temperance movement. Both were generous political donors and this 'odd couple' stayed 'happily' or 'conveniently' married, whilst sleeping in different bedrooms. During the 20th Century there were marginal tweaks to the way hotels operated and ever so slowly, laws were 'relaxed'. Industry bodies maintained dominance and inched their way toward the 'golden' mile. In 1987 The Liquor Control Act ascended to law and the foundation was laid, to build an industry, our industry. Build it we did and the economy came along for the ride. Industry bodies lost absolute control and industry factions developed. We all got along. Enter COVID-19 and the factions have been exposed. We are not one, we are many.
Today's The Age, exclusively published a tantalising headline "Secret plan to reopen pubs, clubs and casinos" by Paul Sakkal. It has been sent to me multiple times, I'm assuming by people who think they bear 'good news'. Sceptically, I read on. Any hospitality headline that includes Crown Casino makes me suspicious.
"Pubs could reopen their doors in July with strict operating rules being developed by a powerful secret taskforce that will be presented to the national cabinet" A secret taskforce? I hope we've sent in Hannibal, 'B.A.' Baracus and The A-Team to bring this 'plan together'. Unfortunately, not. No, Dapper Dan has assembled Crown Casino, Tabcorp, Woolworths (ALH), A.H.A. (sponsored by Tatts), Community Clubs Victoria and the RSL. No restrauteurs, hoteliers, pure publicans, bar or cafe owners. What do all these bodies have in common? Anyone, anyone, Bueller? Gaming economics.
Secret taskforce, you don't speak for the hospitality industry, although you hide behind our veil and use our name to 'front' your real game, gaming. You profit and governments profit. You don't need to make money out of your food & beverage as long as the pokie machines and tills are ding dinging. You have conveniently inserted gaming into our industry, when it doesn't fit and masks the reality of the micro-economic crisis within hospitality. The campaign to get Casinos, Pubs & Clubs open again, is not a bad thing for gaming businesses. It's not a bad thing for the pokie punters, who are missing the 'entertainment'. It won't hurt state government coffers. No comment on the social impacts. I can tell you one thing, it won't help the genuine industry participants.
You keep pushing your barrow all the way to the Canberra Fruit & Vegetable market, I'm going back to plough the fields and sew new seeds. There will be no harvest or market for me this season. Hopefully I'll have my own wheelbarrow and we'll cross paths on the Hume Highway in the Spring.