Published on 28 October 2020
Being a second-generation publican is something I hold very dear to my heart. My parents were publicans in the 1970s and 1980s, and they were wild days indeed. Growing up in a pub to me was normal – my cousins grew up in pubs, too. I saw first-hand the sense of community in the public bar (it was a male domain that my mother ruled). Everyone was welcomed in the same bright and warm manner.
There were kids eating potato chips and drinking red lemonade while dad had just one more. I loved staying up late, perched at the top of the stairs and hearing the sound float up, watching the punters while Dad held court.
Now I’m a grown-up publican in Melbourne and I can attest that our hospitality scene still offers this community to its punters. We are there for them to talk to about their latest triumph or failure. We help make a date night special and put on the gigs you will speak of for years. We provide so that this city is vital and awesome. What people don’t know is how tight-knit our community is. We are there for each other like no one else and it’s not just to borrow stock or change. It’s really being around when needed for someone who might be struggling. Many times the generosity of spirit I have witnessed from my contemporaries has been jaw-dropping.
This lockdown has been unprecedented. We, as a bunch of people, are not used to sitting around on our arses. We are doers. And we thrive on being in the company of people. So having that taken away from us has been insane. Our job is to talk, joke, hang shit, feed and water. The toll it’s taken on all small business has been immense but for us it’s not just an economic cost – this is truly the way we live. Hospitality is not just a job, it’s our life.
For us to know how much our regulars are looking forward to their first beer off the wood or first parma after this lockdown means the world to us. Walking around Footscray and seeing regulars in the street who really want to know how we’re going and what we’ve been up to shows that they love us as much as we love them. That is community. This is one of the reasons I’m involved with #HospoHour – a call out for people to share their love for their local on social media every Friday between 6pm and 8pm. It gives everyone the ability to tag and mention their favourite venues wherever they are, and let the governor know they care.
I love the idea of #HospoHour being used to make sure Melbourne is fully booked the first weeks we’re back. As we open up, we need the punters to come, and keep coming. In the months ahead, we need our regulars more than we ever have.
Anthony Hammond is a co-owner of The Builders Arms in Fitzroy and The Victoria Hotel in Footscray. Find out more about Hospo Hour at hospohour.com.au
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