Publican | Youth Central

Michael, mid 30s

What does a publican do?

Michael is a publican representing the owners of a South Melbourne hotel.

"In the old days the publican always had a beer in their hand chatting with the locals. Quite often they were an ex-footy star or ex-cop - someone to be looked up to as a community leader, but also someone who was a 'good old boy' who liked his drink," Michael smiles.

An intelligent hospitality professional, Michael couldn't be further from the 'good old boy'. Rather than propping up the bar with locals, Michael is more likely to be frantically re-stocking it or cheerfully serving patrons.

So the old stereotype doesn't hold much water? "The nature of the business has changed so much that you can't devote yourself to the social aspects of the job - there's too many other things to do." Rather than the publican being the owner of a pub these days they're more likely to be employees of a bigger company. Michael indicates the main changes are that "there's a lot more professional management structures, and a lot of big organisations that own lots of pubs these days, so they put in full-time managers as publican-managers."

How did you become a publican?

"Like lots of people in hospitality, I started because the hours were suitable for part-time work for a student. So I started as a casual bartender, doing a bit of evenings so I could study at university and it progressed from there," Michael says.

The job appealed so much that Michael has been steadily working his way up through the ranks at his South Melbourne hotel. He now runs the place for the directors, a group who bought the pub and transformed it from a corner pub to a dining pub with a reputation for its food.

What does a typical working day involve?

A publican's daily routine depends on the pub they work in: a larger pub might occupy its publican with paperwork, contacting suppliers and office-based work, while a smaller owner-operated place might see the publican pouring as many beers as signing papers.

Michael's pub sits somewhere between these two. "We operate on a very hands-on system so the publican works on the floor whether that's behind the bar or serving tables as well as stock rotation, receiving kegs. On top of that there's dealing with staff, suppliers and the directors."

What are the people you work with like?

"Generally, people in hospitality tend to be very gregarious - you have to like people and you have to be able to deal with people all the time," Michael says. It's a job that regularly sees you chatting to patrons and making them feel welcome.

But it's not just patrons. "The industry is one where people socialise a lot with each other. There's generally a strong bond, a sense of team, which is good for the operation of the place," Michael suggests.

What sort of training can you get to become a publican?

Several TAFEs, Councils of Adult Education (CAEs) and even universities offer hospitality courses. Michael explains: "In this country it used to be a profession that had no formal qualifications. More and more there are qualifications that you can do to increase employability, but it's still a job where most of it is learnt on the job."

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

When things go wrong in a pub, it's usually the publican who has to sort them out. "You're in a business that serves alcohol so you get people who you have to stop serving or people who've had too much elsewhere and you have to turn away. And they can be threatening." Fortunately for Michael, these situations are rare in his pub and he has never "had any physical contact with a patron".

On the plus side, Michael does get a real kick out of a shift where everything just falls into place. "The satisfaction of finishing a shift and it all going as well as it could with the minimum staff to maximum figures. Now that sounds very dry, but it's a buzz that everyone gets of being put under the pressure and coming through."

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