As the on-premise industry battles through one of its toughest times, what is heart-warming is how people from inside and outside the industry are finding ways to help ensure venues survive.
For Michael Dennehy and Shannon Beavis, finding themselves in Lake Conjola on New Year’s Eve when severe fires swept through the area, it was the local pub that made an impact.
“During that time of panic, driving through the smoke, the place people turned to for respite, food, water and anything else, was the Milton Pub. We stayed there for most of the afternoon receiving updates from the staff. It showed the importance of why these venues are great for people to get together – it felt like a refuge,” said Dennehy.
Then, while the on-premise industry was shut down due to COVID-19, they heard Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews give a press conference where he urged people not to get together to ‘get on the beers’. The phrase has since become iconic across social media, also pushing Dennehy, Beavis and friends to think how much they missed going to their favourite bars for beers.
Combined, these experiences pushed for the pair to create a new way that patrons could support their local venue, even if they haven’t reopened, or are operating under quite different circumstances to what they’re used to.
So they launched Cheers To Your Local, a website that sells venue-related merchandise, including those that feature the Victorian Premier and the phrase ‘get on the beers.’ Proceeds from each sale goes to a bar, club or pub nominated by the buyer, which can be any venue, anywhere around the country.
Dennehy described the reason they decided to sell clothing, rather than collect donations through other campaign types or direct fundraising.
“We think it’s only fair that the punter receives something – a value exchange. Donations are great but once the money is sent, the transaction is complete. Plus, people want to show they’re supporting their local and clothing is a great way to do it. And we think the clothing looks good,” Dennehy said.
Another great thing that Cheers To Your Local offers, is the chance to give back to the bar staff themselves, both right now and into the future as the industry goes down a long road of recovery.
Dennehy said: “Before launching (and investing money into the idea) we spoke with a few venue managers about the cause and disbursing funds to locals. In the spirit of the industry, all stated they would pass onto their staff. It would operate similar to tips where these are split amongst staff. We’ve started forming relationships with venues and as this initiative grows, these will become deeper and broader.
“Part of the reason why we didn’t call the site ‘Get On The Beers’, which we’ve registered, is because whilst the saying is somewhat funny, it’s tied to a one-off event. Cheers To Your Local is something we all would like to do – showing support to those working in pubs, clubs and bars across Australia. It is a continual thing beyond COVID-19 as staff in these venues receive a modest wage.”
Cheers To Your Local launched on 13 May and has accumulated over $3000 worth of sales already, despite the teething issues associated with new ventures like this. One of the hardest challenges was figuring out the best way to get funds to workers – which they decided would be done every three months, less the costs of the shirt production and Cheers to Your Local operating costs.
The first payment reconciliation is scheduled for this week, and sights are already set to the future potential of the movement, especially after officially becoming a registered Not For Profit this month.
“Given we’ve just launched, it’s hard to put an exact amount [on what proportion goes to the workers]. As the initiative grows, we can pass on greater amounts,” Dennehy said.
“We’d love to help out over 1,000 venues by the end of the year and we’re on track. We received 50 nominations in less than 30 days, so we think 1,000 venues is realistic.”
You can find what’s on offer at the Cheers To Your Local website.