Climbing Out of the Rabbit Hole
Typical Friday and Saturday club goers would now come during the week, just to ensure they didn’t miss a scene change to a new theme. Business was building, most importantly the weekday business. As Vic put it, I was becoming “clean again” – no more booze or drugs, and amazingly was getting a clearer head in decision making.
I think it was around this time I finally became an adult thinking entrepreneur, and no longer a boy living out a real-world addiction infused and hazy gay fantasy, yet my promiscuous vice remained.
I handed out batches of secret complimentary door passes (to avoid cover charges) to hundreds of local cute (and typically big haired gay boys) on condition of secrecy, and never handed them out to women, ugly gay leeches, or knowingly straight men. I also targeted blonde surfer boys on the Gold Coast / Surfers Paradise, by visiting the few gay clubs with fistfuls of passes and promises of free drinks. I never solicited the clientele from competing clubs such as The Terminus, since keeping a happy scene was just as important, indeed, I tried to avoid visiting competitors bars and clubs for fear of misinterpretation.
The combination of what today would be called guerilla marketing, ensured that most of our regular customer base were hot, young, good looking, gay boys. Yet legally, everyone was welcome, if they paid the cover charge.
Further, realizing that profit on soft drink is MUCH higher than that of alcohol, I would designate some late-night hours to be soft-drink only bar times, usually around 4am when the club was full. This had an additional benefit of pacing my customers alcohol levels, keeping them partying (and spending) for longer, often until 7am. The cost benefit analysis is simple, and one of the secrets of the bar trade to this day, as an example:
Suspecting some sticky fingers from my own bar staff within the 3 bars, I instituted a “cash register control system: to make the bartenders THINK I was able to track cash and balance this with weekly alcohol consumption. Actually, it’s impossible due to the combination of post mix syrup soft drinks, bottled bear and different prices of different alcoholic drinks. But my staff had not figured that out. A week after installing this, I noticed the cash take consistently went up by about 10%.
A few months later, during a scene change, without saying anything to any of my bar staff, I had purchased half a dozen old 2nd hand security cameras, at the time, these were big clunky things. My resident designer screwed each above the bar, pointing them generally towards the array of tills. He stuffed the cables up into the ceiling tiles, so it looked like they were connected. He then put an old broken TV set in my upstairs office, along with an old clunky Betamax videotape machine below the TV. Again, all perception and nothing explicitly said to the staff. Indeed, these days, fake pretend security cameras, with a tiny blinking red light powered by a battery, are commonplace in most bars worldwide.
In the coming weeks, the weekly cash bar take went up again but this time by about a whopping 25%. Although I suspected a couple of them, I never worked out, nor cared, which of the staff had sticky fingers, since personalities (and sometimes their flirty looks) brought regular customers made up for it in the long run. Most bars and restaurants assume a 10% theft rate by staff in their operations.
The combination of regular themed decor changes, secret door cover charge system, soft drink spree at peak times and pretend anti-theft security measures was my key to building up the business from about AUD $12,500 a week to over AUD $40,000 in profit each week – in the mid 1980’s.
Delivering the “take” every Monday late afternoon to Gerry & Vic’s office was also interesting. We had a slew of little canvas bank bags, and each week, the cash was counted and buddled in clusters by denomination and wrapped with a single rubber band. Each bank note domination bundle was put into its own canvas bag, at the time $5, $10, $20 and $50. The heavy coins, in another bag. The weirdly shaped and very heavy $0.50 cent coins and below were never delivered, and instead used in our operational costs.
After retaining a cash float in my office at The Beat, I would take the bags together shoved into in a common department store shopping bag, for the 3 or 4 block walk to Gerry & Vic’s office above their Manhattan Club, along with a single tiny piece of paper from my bookkeeper detailing in handwriting each bags value, plus a combined total note.
Either Gerry, Vic or their GM Robin would simply place each bag on a kitchen weight scale on their desk, and thereby know, almost accurately, how much each was containing. If the combined value of each of the collective bags was equal to, or more than the previous week, I was “good to go”. If it was less, they looked for an explanation, and were always polite in those weeks.
Fortunately, nearly all weeks the combined value of the weight of the bags were getting heavier. If particularly heavy in a given week, they would often reach into one of the bags, usually the one containing the $20 rubber band wrapped bundles and throw it at me saying “good job kid” – I would then divvy up this bonus with my bar staff and DJ, which built loyalty and commitment.
Vic and Gerry were so thrilled at the new waterfall of cash this young kid was making them, we upped the game, acquiring adjoining building spaces, expanded the club, more than doubling its size.
Amidst various anti-gay, anti-police, anti-government, anti-anything campaigns by news media, print, radio, and TV, grabbing at straws trying to sell advertising, The Beat became more and more popular, proving there’s is no such thing as bad press.