Monday, 27 February 2012

Learning On the Job

We opened the "Grape" with great fanfare and little money. If it was not an immediate hit we would be out the door the next month, as we had no contingency or funds. so it was do or die.

It was a Saturday afternoon, early evening opening and three hundred were invited which included all media.We invited everyone we knew and plenty we did not. We provided a blanket invitation to Vivian's Modelling Agency, who provided plenty of good looking ladies. All the ladies we employed were wearing hot pants and looked sensational behind the bar and weaving through the crowd with trays of hors d'ouvres and drinks.

There was good mix of social, business, sporting people spread through out the invitation list which we had prepared ourselves and had done much of the distribution and delivering  to give that personal touch, adding when we delivered to mates or others that their friends were equally welcome. 

The place was busting at the seams, the atmosphere was pumped with loud music that was current to the time, people trying to talk over the music, and the air, smoke laden because the air conditioners were not able to handle the over burden. John Laws spent most of the time outside on the footpath talking with John Sevenoaks and old school mate.Inside was shoulder to shoulder mayhem, everyone enjoying the bon homie, free drinks and the excitement of meeting new people. A new place opening always generates excitement, the anticipation becomes contagious and word of mouth can spread like an outback bushfire which was the case with the the 'Grape Escape".

Everyone embraced the place from day one, the opening was so successful that no one could remember what it was like except they had a great time and they couldn't get back their quick enough to check it out again.People love to boast about a new discovery and that was the situation, the 'Grape' went off like a firecracker for lunch and evenings.We did not have time for nerves, the business drove us to such an extent, that it took off like a steam train careening out of control down a mountain track. 

There was a seating booth upholstered in red velvet, at one end of the bar, that sat about seven people around a polished timber oval table - the three of us were sitting there after the first close  of trading which was a Saturday night. All the staff had gone home, on the table were both tills with the nights takings in front of us and two of those cream coloured canvas bank money bags, chock a block filled with bank notes. We started to count and once we got to a couple of thousand dollars, we just stopped and threw the money in the air, opened a bottle of  Champagne and celebrated each other. We cherished each other, relishing the fact that we had achieved this dream. We were open, making money, self employed and plenty ahead to look forward to,we were still in our late twenties with energy to burn and ideas aplenty.

 We connected well  with, our  customers and especially our age age group,  including  the ladies that worked with us.We enjoyed being our own bosses and loved coming to work each day, we loved the people that worked with us and we loved our clients. we managed the place on two levels 
 --- --  As a party 
------   As a business

That pretty well became the culture, party was most nights especially Fridays and Saturdays nights. We were into music and always maintained a current range of music and updated our equipment so the Music became integral especially later at nights. In the early seventies there was such a great collection of music to fuse into a operation for lunch, dinner, evening drinks.
Both of us spent a fair bit of time selecting the music for each shift  so it was not repetitious, a small library had to bought and built on.In the evenings we were like dj's changing music to suit the crowd and conducting the mood. We played jazz more during the lunch, easy listening vocals and instrumental early evenings and later when it filled up  we would crank it up with  rock and R&B and Motown

We spent sometimes $200 a week, doe'snt sound like much now but in 1970 it was a lot, buying the tops from the Beatles, Stones,Doors, Stevie Wonder, Jimi, Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, Marvin Gay, Ray Conif, Motown was hitting it straps - the Supremes, Dianna Ross, Four Tops, Lou Rawles. Burt Bacharagh (Raindrops) etc - Their was such sensational music coming out in the seventies, that it was such a pleasure to fuse it into the way we ran the "Grape Escape" Music put everyone in a good mood, the staff as much as the customers. From the time we used to 'set up' the Grape in the morning for lunch, untill we closed, music was on. That was one of  the first upgrades ;  affording a commercial sound system that was well balanced through the rooms, getting the balance right, where you can hear the music and enjoy, but still hold a conversation- this is what we tried to achieve outside the bar area, after 10pm it was bullshit - good music, if you wanted to hold a conversation move to another room.

We tried and were OK with live stuff (Stevie Wright, Moonstone)  - the layout was better suited to forward background music, especially forward in the bar after 10pm, at least four nights a week. These nights would rev up into big nights, every Friday and Saturday night we would have two security on door an queues stretching around the corner.This kept on going for a few years, night in night out, we were in the first two years working on how to work the place and how it worked us.

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