WA Day hero: Peter Hayes called to the bar for a lifetime of service
The evolution of the WA pub has rocked and rolled Peter Hayes through more than four decades of his working life.
And while he has seen the best of times — and is enduring the worst of times in this coronavirus pandemic — he has no doubt that the trusted status of pubs at the heart of the community will endure.
Mr Hayes is one of the State’s local heroes being recognised this week by The West Australian in the lead-up to WA Day.
“The WA pub is the town hall, the meeting place and the place of relief,” Leederville’s Oxford Hotel publican said.
“It’s probably the most important thing in a community because people can come down and do their business, meet with friends and family or come down after a bad day at work.
“It acts as a great release for people who need it.
“Pubs are a great mental health asset and I don’t think the regulatory bodies realise how important the hotel is to the community.”
Mr Hayes’ first foray into the pub game was at Midland’s Commercial Tavern in the late 1970s.
“There were a lot of blue singlets and Gladstone bags ... they were fantastic days and part of WA that has left us,” he said.
Within a few years, the traditionally working-class hangouts had morphed into trailblazing musical venues, with local bands drawing crowds of 1000-plus into hotel across Perth.
“There was a massive change in the early ’80s when the music took over and forced hotels to build rooms for 1000-plus people to suit the bands and remain competitive,” Mr Hayes said.
“The pubs just went bananas, it was unbelievable. It was also fairly innocent, by today’s standards, in terms of the substances that were consumed and people just had a lot of fun.
“The success of these bands with the kids who were just really looking to get out and go for it hard and have a great time, just dictated to all of us.”
Mr Hayes managed and promoted WA bands such as The Frames, The Fingerprints, Loaded Dice, Seal and the Beam, Dick and the Dames, and The Flying Fonzarellis.
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Rehearsal studios even had to be built into Osborne Park factories to accommodate band requirements.
He also brought other big acts into the State including Mondo Rock, Australian Crawl, Kids In The Kitchen, Pseudo Echo, Men At Work and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.
But before the 1980s were over, the era ended almost as suddenly as it started. “It was a cycle that in the end, had it’s day,” he said. “It couldn’t keep going at that rate.”
Mr Hayes began his tenure at the Oxford Hotel on Valentine’s Day 2001 and said the pub scene was now a more refined experience.
But rising product costs and the virus had made it hard for the industry.
“The excise on our beers goes up twice a year every year and gross profit since I’ve been in it has dropped about eight or nine per cent ... you can’t pass that on to the customers or they won’t come in,” he said.
“In the past three or four years, people were saying hospitality was in its worst position in 40 years. So we’ve come out of a major hospitality depression straight into a pandemic and straight down the big hole.
“But it’s like the Australian cricket team — it’s harder to get out of it than it is to get in it.”
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