Postcards from the Edge No.18: From Menulog To Menudog

Since venues closed just under a month ago (yes, really – it's still less than a month...) there's been plenty of discussion around the need to redeploy beer and hospo industry staff, as well as the need to find alternatives to home delivery companies that charge up to 35 percent commission.

Both have been issues faced by the team at the Great Northern Hotel in Carlton North, one of Melbourne's most popular craft beer pubs. And it's not just their bar and kitchen staff that needed consideration: what were they going to do with the head of security?

"We've got a working dog there that was in charge of security," pub owner Al Carragher says. "And with the pub closing down we had to resort to delivery."

Enter Slumdog and Bozo Home Deliveries – a case of killing two birds with one stone.

Al owned a dog jacket he'd been given by his mates at Lagunitas that has pockets designed for carrying beer. His brother Jeremy (AKA Slumdog) had a longboard capable of fitting a case of beer on the front. So, with Bozo's jacket loaded up, off they went.

"The jacket's good for about four beers," Al says. "And it prefers cans over bottles."

 

Bozo getting ready for another home delivery from the Great Northern.

 

Since they were forced to close the venue, they've managed to keep all their full time staff on, variously doing the painting and varnishing jobs they'd not found time for previously, working in the kitchen or carrying out deliveries within a 2km radius. And they've built their own online store so they don't need to pay commission to a third party platform.

"We'd be down 90 percent," Al says of the impact on a business that normally goes through around 65 kegs every week. "But the full-timers are still here, we're doing food for pickup and delivery, growler fills, the bottleshop."

They've also launched merch for the first time, initially with Bozo t-shirts and with beanies on the way.

"We put the t-shirts up on Friday and when I checked yesterday we'd already sold 25," he says. "We had one order for a parma, a t-shirt and a four-pack."

Even before the shutdown, Al had been faced with his own COVID-19 related challenges. He was in the States when the pandemic began to accelerate and was forced to change his plans. Instead of moving on from Phoenix to New York, he headed west via LA to Melbourne, arriving back just after the mandatory 14-day quarantine was put in place. By the time he was able to step foot in his pub again, the doors were already closed to the public.

"It's obviously a very hard time for everyone," he says. "But the morale at the pub is pretty good. We're just trying to do the things that were in the too hard basket. You've got to use every resource you've got.

"I think the way [Dan] Andrews is talking, it's going to be a while before people are going back to the pub again."

But, as with many of their peers, the Great Northern staff are proving nothing if not resourceful in the meantime.

"We're selling homemade dog biscuits too," Al says. "Bozo's on quality control and it keeps the chefs busy."


As part of the #keepinglocalalive campaign we're running Postcards from the Edge stories, highlighting the ways in which people are adapting to survive. If you've got a story you think is suitable – or have something to add to the campaign resources online – get in touch.

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