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Hellenic stalwarts switch to Tradies in frustration

By Roger Allnutt - 1 March 2017 13

Hellenic Club

Recent experience has confirmed my view that the Hellenic Club at Woden has lost its ‘member’ focus. The club does not appear interested in the patronage of longstanding members, but more depressingly, does not seem interested in listening to the legitimate concerns of members. This disinterest is symptomatic of a worrying trend across all aspects of society where the ‘ordinary’ people are totally ignored and overlooked in favour of pandering to corporate interests.

In Canberra’s earlier days, and particularly from the 1960s, community-based clubs sprang up providing support and activities for Canberra residents. For people who arrived during that time from interstate and overseas, the social aspects of those clubs were a major drawcard.

Although some clubs were based around sporting activities, there were also a number of ‘ethnic’ based clubs such as the Harmonie German Club, Finnish Club and Italian Club. Many migrant workers who moved here from the Snowy Mountains scheme established clubs as a place for members to keep in touch and socialise. This was a unique feature in the development of Canberra.

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Members of the clubs were offered a range of benefits. For example, the Tradies Club had low cost holiday accommodation at various locations around Australia which, although fairly basic, allowed families the opportunity to take reasonably cheap holidays. Those properties were sold off about 10 years ago to the disappointment of some members – the explanation was that the younger generation wanted more upmarket facilities.

As Canberra’s population grew, some of the smaller clubs disappeared or were swallowed up by the larger clubs which now dominate the landscape. Clubs like the Southern Cross Club, Hellenic Club, Tradies and Labor Club now have large memberships and the original ‘club’ atmosphere seems to have diminished as they pursue more corporate-oriented goals. This is reflected in the operation of eating outlets that are run as stand-alone enterprises, often in competition with commercial operations nearby.

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As an example, I have been a member of the Hellenic Club at Woden for over 40 years. As I worked nearby, the venue provided a convenient place to keep up with friends, and a place to enjoy a reasonably priced meal. Until about 15 years ago, it was necessary to make a reservation for dinner at the bistro (and often at lunchtime).

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I am part of a group of workmates who have met weekly for lunch in the bistro for more than 25 years. Now all retired and on fixed incomes, the opportunity to socialise while enjoying a reasonably priced meal was a bonus. Like our group, the demographic at lunchtime has changed, with the bulk of the clientele in the 65+ plus age group.

As the price of meals has increased, the numbers at lunch have dropped markedly and the bistro is often over half empty. The offer of a small selection of lunchtime specials (at around $10) has disappeared, while at the same time the quality of the food has deteriorated significantly.

I approached the management a year or so ago asking why the bistro had increased prices when many clients were looking for a more reasonably priced selection. There are other places nearby that offer a small number of choices at lunchtime at around $10. I suggested that this might bring back more of the older clientele. My argument fell on deaf ears.

For our regular group, we had chosen to drink the excellent wine ‘on tap’ (a very acceptable red) to accompany our meals. Given that we have several carafes each meal, this option is much cheaper than the inflated prices of listed bottled wine.

We were surprised a few weeks ago when the barman told us that ‘on tap’ wine was soon to be ‘removed’ and only the very average bottled wine would be available (at a cost that is 92% more than the cask wine of a per litre basis). Some of our group asked to see the manager (who reluctantly appeared) and were assured by him that no decision on this change had been made. Two weeks later we were informed that no ‘on tap’ wine would be available in future. The manager was again spoken to and informed us that he had not made any ‘promises’ and that it was a board decision.

To my mind, the Club is simply gouging its members to make more money.

After consideration a group decision was made to find another venue for our regular gathering. The Woden Tradies just down the road, which has $10 schnitzel and fish and chips specials at lunchtime and wine ‘on tap’ will now be our ongoing meeting place. A couple of other groups are thinking of moving with us. It’s a classic example of ‘voting with your feet’, and it will impact on the club’s bottom line.

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A rough calculation is that, over the years, our group of eight has provided more than $400,000 to the club just at lunches, not to mention other visits and, for some, money spent on the poker machines.

The Tradies will be only too pleased to pick up the business.

Which is your favorite local club and what do they do to retain your membership?

What’s Your opinion?


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13 Responses to
Hellenic stalwarts switch to Tradies in frustration
1
Maryann Mussared 6:20 pm
01 Mar 17
#

This must have been a very frustrating experience for you. Despite not being a ‘club’ person, I am a member of three southside clubs. I recently joined the Hellenic Club because I found another club I visited regularly was ‘not looking after its members’. I went to the Hellenic because I love Greek food. I had a very nice lunch in the main restaurant and booked to go back on Saturday evening, requesting a table I thought was quiet and well-sited. However, my group was shunted to a table out of the way, and the maitre d’ completely ignored us. I don’t think I ever saw him look anything other than stressed and agitated. However his young staff were very nice and (maybe) the owner of the restaurant went out of her way to be friendly and chatty. The food was very good, but not inexpensive, however, I will try it again. Regrettably the once terrific cafe isn’t what it used to be – but that is over 20 years ago. Whatever happened to the ‘community charter’ of these clubs! Good luck with the Woden Tradies …

2
Suzanne Kiraly 8:00 pm
01 Mar 17
#

I actually like the Raiders at Kippax for their in-house dining and find their meals are reasonably priced, especially their roast dinners on Sunday nights and some blackboard specials too. The CSCC can also be good for lunch. I have not eaten at the Hellenic, so I cannot comment, but I would have thought that prices could stay reasonable whilst the clubs still have access to poker machine takings.

3
wildturkeycanoe 6:40 am
02 Mar 17
#

The Dickson Tradies went through erxactly the same thing about 10-15 years ago when they upgraded the facilities. The midnight snacks from the snack place, such as hot dogs, fried dim sims and chips with gravy were the best I’d ever tasted. That was shut down when the train carriages left, as did the Chinese restaurant. The “tradie” atmosphere changed to a posh, upper class casino style mood which didn’t sit well for me, so we ditched it in favor for the other Raiders clubs. Haven’t been back since.
As for the Hellenic, I always found it to be in this posh, upper class category and the few times I went there it just didn’t feel right. Privatisation of the restaurants is probably a financial decision to increase profits and you can’t do much about that, it is the way everything is going. Affordable eating out just isn’t sustainable while everyday prices for food keeps going up and up. We haven’t eaten out as a family for many years due to the expense, that’s just how this country has become.

4
Langers 9:58 am
02 Mar 17
#

I went there for dinner last Saturday night, by myself (I am a widow), and I went to the new Greek restaurant. I ordered an entree and a dessert and a very expensive glass of wine.

The entree was awful, I ate it because I was hungry (But I should have called the waiter over to complain then & there). The dessert was ok, the wine was lovely…they bought over complimentary little bits of food and that was the best part.

When I went to pay the bill I complained about the entree, saying I have had Calamari many, many times and that was probably the worst I have had………….I thought the waiter may have given me a bit of a discount……….but no!! and no apologies either. Won’t be going back there in a hurry!!

5
Heavs 11:24 am
02 Mar 17
#

Times past when the restaurants were in-house they would subsidise the meals (and drinks) with pokie revenue. With that revenue through the floor they’ve privatised restaurants and are unable to control the prices charged by those private businesses. It’s pretty sad that’s it’s as cheap to get a beer in Murrumbateman or Gundaroo as it is at Magpies in Kippax.

6
Holden Caulfield 11:42 am
02 Mar 17
#

Langers said :

I went there for dinner last Saturday night, by myself (I am a widow), and I went to the new Greek restaurant. I ordered an entree and a dessert and a very expensive glass of wine.

The entree was awful, I ate it because I was hungry (But I should have called the waiter over to complain then & there). The dessert was ok, the wine was lovely…they bought over complimentary little bits of food and that was the best part.

When I went to pay the bill I complained about the entree, saying I have had Calamari many, many times and that was probably the worst I have had………….I thought the waiter may have given me a bit of a discount……….but no!! and no apologies either. Won’t be going back there in a hurry!!

Erm, I get that you didn’t like the entree, but based on your account above you ate it. All of it.

Why on earth should any hospitality venue give you a discount on your meal that you ate in full and until you went to pay your bill they had no idea you were not satisfied?

Moreover, you had already enjoyed “complimentary little bits of food”.

I understand and empathise with people who choose to or need to dine on a budget. But expecting a discount on a meal you ate without complaint at the time is not only laughable but incredibly unfair to the venue.

7
Serina Huang 3:18 pm
02 Mar 17
#

Oh, that sounds frustrating that the direction has changed. I have only been to the Hellenic Club once. I tried to go there around seven years ago. I had just given birth to a premature baby a few days, and as my family was visiting they thought it would be nice to sneak my out from Canberra Hospital for a bit (baby was in NICU). It was a Saturday night and the place was so full we couldn’t even get in. I guess they had a lot of weddings and events. At the time I was so exhausted and I just remember how distressing it felt. I must admit I have zero interest in going back since then.

I second Suzanne’s comments re Raiders Belconnen. I went there with a group of friends the weekend before last and it was excellent value for money. And my kids just loved the play area. We will be back.

8
Elias Hallaj (aka CB 6:00 pm
02 Mar 17
#

I think Clubs still play an important role in Canberra. Many local sporting teams and community groups rely on their support to survive. It’s sad to see regular patrons so disappointed with a venue but it sounds like you’ve already found a new home with all the things you are looking for. Win/Win for you and the Tradies! I’ve been to both clubs and the food is definitely better value at the Tradies. I’ve eaten at the Hellenic Club in the city and that wasn’t too bad but the food is better at the City Labor Club I think. I’m a regular at the Belconnen Labor Club and quite enjoy the refurbished asian style bistro there, as well as the older cafe occasionally. I’ve also been known to buy a schnitzel at the Charnwood Labor Club when they host comedy nights as they do a special for the comedy patrons.

9
Jane Speechley 8:14 pm
02 Mar 17
#

I have to say, I tend toward my local club (Qbn) purely for the sake of convenience. I can’t say they do a great deal to keep me as a member – but I don’t really need them to. We just go there because they meet our needs – relaxed, kid friendly for the little ones in the family, good-enough quality food, and affordable.

10
chewy14 11:47 pm
02 Mar 17
#

I remember when clubs had $2 drinks and $5 meals. It’s outrageous that those clubs would ever change their menus or pricing to suit the current thoughts of the majority of members.

*shakes fist at moon*

11
bigred 10:37 am
06 Mar 17
#

I have worked around Woden for a number of short stints over too many years. I get what is being said about the Hellenic Club, but keep my membership active because is a pretty good place to take interstate visitors for a working lunch. I was over there a few weeks ago and tried the new Greek eatery and found it to be really good, albeit expensive.

12
devils_advocate 1:00 pm
06 Mar 17
#

When I was a student, I used to buy food and drink from various clubs, but I always felt a bit guilty that my enjoyment was being subsidised by pokie revenue. When I gained an understanding of what pokies actually did to people’s lives, I stopped going. I think it’s inevitable that the various elements of revenue streams for clubs will start to be viewed as standalone operations and cross-subsidies will end. In addition, given that long and short-run fixed costs are high (rent and staff) there will be a diversity of approaches by venues as to how they maximise revenue (pursue volume or profit, use of food as a loss-leader, etc).

13
HenryBG 2:04 pm
07 Mar 17
#

devils_advocate said :

When I was a student, I used to buy food and drink from various clubs, but I always felt a bit guilty that my enjoyment was being subsidised by pokie revenue. When I gained an understanding of what pokies actually did to people’s lives, I stopped going.

I applaud your ethics. I am similarly disturbed about pokie machine revenue and very, very rarely go anywhere near a venue that has pokies.

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