AFL Grand Final eve holiday bites some businesses, while others set up DJ events

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Next week’s AFL Grand Final eve public holiday in Victoria is a worry for many small businesses, but there are some operators capitalising on the long weekend – with dance parties.

This morning the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) released results of a survey of Victorian businesses ahead of the second state-wide public holiday before the AFL Grand Final, this year slated for Friday September 30. Seventy four percent of respondents did not open their businesses on last year’s holiday. For the ones that did, 45% said their sales were significantly below normal, while 8% said they received significantly more sales than a normal Friday.

There is one group that is enthusiastically promoting events for the weekend though – bars and nightclubs. Hospitality operations, clubs and restaurants in the Melbourne CBD and suburbs have been promoting events with cover charges on Grand Final eve and the Thursday before the long weekend.

Hawthorn club Animal House is hosting a ‘Bevs with Fev’ night on the Thursday evening, complete with a DJ set by former AFL footballer Brendan Fevola.

Thursday evening events have become a good way to kick off trading all weekend, says Andrew Molloy, marketing manager for another venue planning to take advantage of the long weekend, Melbourne Public. The bar has a Thursday music event and a number of acts on throughout the long weekend – as well as broadcasting the Grand Final game on the Saturday.

“We actually do an event every public holiday eve,” he told SmartCompany.

“We’re open throughout the weekend, and we’re not at all worried – we were really busy on both the Thursday and the Friday night last year.”

The eatery has been able to capitalise on the city’s affection for sport and says it can expand this well across the long weekend.

“We play the footy [on TV] all the time anyway,” says Molloy.

Meanwhile, suburban cafes and restaurants are feeling the pressure to pay staff correctly during on new public holiday – but some say their customers are happy to pay it forward in the form of surcharges to cover penalty rates.

“Public holidays are very busy for us, and we charge a 10% surcharge,” one hospitality business operator told SmartCompany.

“We make sure every customer knows upfront, and if they don’t like it they don’t have to come – but 99% of the time they’re ok with it. The only way we can open is to charge that.”

One critic of the Victorian holiday is Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong, who says that the Victorian government’s decision to persist with the additional public holiday is “stupid” as there are still more business owners who have to pay for it than those who make a profit.

“It’s all very shallow politics,” Strong says.

“They don’t care about the human cost of this.”

Strong says the negative reaction to the timing of Grand Final eve public holiday from some lies in it not being a ‘traditional’ event that is celebrated in our culture, and that even the Melbourne Cup holiday held in November has long been woven into Victoria’s history.

“You celebrate the footy game on the day – not before it,” he says.

“There’s nothing ‘traditional’ about this holiday.”

The VECCI survey found businesses reported an average of $8,218 in penalty rates were paid to staff to work on the Grand Final eve public holiday, across the 50 businesses that provided figures. Eighty seven percent of businesses surveyed said they would prefer the holiday didn’t continue.

However, while it is still in place business owners are aware that customers expect stores and restaurants to remain open across the state.

“Customers like consistency,” one business owner told SmartCompany. “So we’re open all holidays except Christmas Day.”


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