Hospitality

Meet the businesses taking advantage of footy fever this weekend (and the ones that couldn’t care less)

Priscilla Pho /

The London Tavern

The London Tavern. Source: Mattinbgn.

If the AFL Grand Final winner was decided based on the readiness and enthusiasm of its local pubs and sports bars, there would be a clear winner.

Ahead of tomorrow’s showdown between the Richmond Tigers and the Greater Western Sydney Giants, local venues have been gearing up for a packed-out weekend.

With just two years gone by since the Tigers’ last premiership win, Richmond businesses know what to expect.

On the other hand, businesses in western Sydney find themselves preparing for a big, but unknown, weekend ahead. That’s if they’re preparing at all.

Richmond: Ready for action

For Richmond bars and pubs, this is the second time in two years their local team is in the Grand Final.

Speaking with SmartCompany, Bob O’Kane, owner of the “Richmond through and through” All Nations Hotel, says it’s all about the vibe.

“We’re booked out every year to watch the game just because I’m in Richmond.”

It is “in close proximity to the MCG, so people tune into the atmosphere”, he adds.

And, while the pub is always busy on Grand Final weekends, this year is a bit more exciting.

“All the Tigers are up and about”.

At the same time, he says he was disappointed “from the perspective of a business owner in Richmond” that Collingwood isn’t also in the final showdown.

“It would’ve been a lot more fun with the local teams and the rivalry, but that wasn’t to be, sadly,” he says.

This means the final game will be missing a certain competitiveness and “banter between the supporters”, he adds.

“I haven’t seen an orange scarf in the pub all week.”

The London Tavern is just down the road, and venue manager Annika Keily tells SmartCompany “it will be very, very busy all over Richmond”.

Despite expecting a full house from opening to final call, the team is still pulling out all the stops.

“When Richmond’s in, we go sort of all-out,” Keily says.

“All the staff have Tigers shirts … We’ve ordered 1,000 yellow and black helium balloons to be delivered tomorrow morning before we open, so the place will be decked out,” she adds.

“We’ve got a massive, massive TV screen out the back and we’re pretty well known for being an AFL pub because of that. And then we’ve got TVs around the entire venue as well.”

CBD: A splash of orange

Perhaps predictably, Melbourne bars and pubs are more prepared for the weekend ahead, even though this is the Giant’s debut Grand Final. Some venues are even putting on special events to cash in on the Sydney fans that will be in town.

In Melbourne, Coopers Inn has arranged for former Richmond player and former GWS head coach Kevin Sheedy to come in for “a sort of Q&A, interview sort of thing”, a staff member tells SmartCompany.

The Imperial Hotel, self-proclaimed ‘home of the GWS’, is also gearing up for the crowds.

Imperial venue manager Lee Brearley tells SmartCompany that, among the balloon archways and decorations, there will be 15 screens, four projectors and a ‘jumbotron’ huge screen showing the game, all spread across three levels.

“It’s busy every year. I’d say tomorrow will be one of the busiest Grand Finals that we’ve seen in recent years,” Brearley says.

“We’ve had a lot of GWS fans in, obviously with them getting into their first granny.”

However, in Sydney, home of the Giants, the response is less enthusiastic.

When SmartCompany called around bars and pubs in the city, including those in Sydney’s Olympic Park where the Giants Stadium is housed, the response was underwhelming. In fact, only one sports bar manager showed real enthusiasm.

Shonelle Grey from the 24/7 Sports Bar at The Star says the game is considered a significant event at the bar.

Because the bar is dedicated to major events across other sports, such as the NRL and even foreign sports like the NFL, the game will be shown on three of the seven screens available, and on one mega-screen.

“I think we will be having some cheerleaders and face paint and that sort of thing. And then we go into a whole DJ nightlife thing,” Grey says.

Sydney footy fans should stay hopeful though, as,  according to Grey, AFL’s popularity in Sydney is on the rise.

“I’ve noticed a lot more, not only for the Grand Finals, but throughout the season, AFL has been kicked up a lot more.

“Predominantly, it’s usually NRL that’s the main sport people come in to watch on a Saturday. But I’ve found that a lot more people are coming in for the AFL.

“And we do have a lot more bookings and callers enquiring about the Grand Final,” she adds.

READ MORE: What do AFL and small business have in common? Old-style leaders are on the out

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Priscilla Pho

Priscilla is a reporter at SmartCompany. You can contact her at [email protected].

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