What brings you back to your local? Is it the environment? The food? Perhaps it is the people. Are there secrets behind the best local pubs and clubs? Whatever the reason, there’s something special about crossing the threshold of the place you’re proud to call your ‘local’. No matter if it’s just been a few months or you’ve been calling it your “home away from home” for many years. Your local owns a place in your heart.
Let’s take a look at what makes Aussie pubs and clubs part of our culture. We’ll find out why the best local pubs and clubs hold a special place in the hearts of so many people.
The history of pubs and clubs
Do some research and you’ll discover that the practice of visiting your local pub, or ‘public house’ as they were traditionally known, goes back to Roman times.
When the Romans invaded England, they brought with them the culture of an alehouse. This type of establishment welcomed one and all, offering a neutral platform for socialising. Gradually, the Romans began to build a system of roads connecting villages around the country. Along with the roads came the concept of a public house. Not only could travellers stop for a drink, they could stay the night too.
People have looked to a town’s public house/inn for shelter, company and a place to stay the night for centuries. The humble pub has been loved throughout history in the UK. As far back as 1577, a survey of drinking venues in England and Wales recorded 14,202 alehouses, 1,631 inns, and 329 taverns. That meant there was one pub for every 187 people! The claim for the oldest pub in Britain is hotly contested. There are several which claim to have been in operation since the 12th and 13th centuries.
Pubs and clubs in Australia
With Australia’s earliest settlers coming from Britain, it is no wonder the pub culture was quick to catch on down under. Back in gold rush times, the local pub was also likely to act as a post office, restaurant, hotel and general store. In Australia, the title of ‘oldest pub’ is claimed by both The Australian Hotel and the Fortune of War. They’re both located in The Rocks (in Sydney, New South Wales) and both have compelling claims to the title.
While pub culture was well and truly ingrained in Australia from the time of European settlement, the culture of the local club did not arise until the time of the First World War.
It all started with the RSL
The first RSL (Returned & Services League) was formed in 1916 by troops returning from WWI. The purpose of this club was not just to provide a meeting point, but to “preserve the spirit of mateship formed amidst the carnage and horror of battle, to honour the memory of the fallen and to help each other whenever required”.
So, the underlying philosophy of the original Australian clubs was mateship and help. This is still the case today, and is at the heart of the best local pubs and clubs.
After WWI, the early RSL clubs were instrumental in creating service, disability and war widow pensions, child health programs, vocational guidance services and employment programs. This practice lead to a tradition of clubs of all sorts having an important place in the local community, as an outlet which offered support and had a focus on giving back.
Now, Australia is home to thousands of clubs of all shapes and sizes, which cater to all kinds of interests. In NSW, the mandate of the local club is to “give its best so its community can be its best”. Clubs bring people together, with members rolling up their sleeves to lend a helping hand and give to those who need it most. Here at Lantern Club, we take social responsibility very seriously, while also endeavouring to provide a venue that feels like home.
The appeal of a ‘local’
Beyond home and work, where do you find yourself the most regularly? For many Australians, the answer is their local pub or club.
Believe it or not, there have been several studies into what makes a pub or club so appealing that people will return on a regular basis. As noted in research dating back to the 1930s, the public house became “the only kind of public building used by large numbers of ordinary people where their thoughts and actions are not being in some way arranged for them”. This research went on the say that “in the other kinds of public building they are the audiences, watchers of political, religious, dramatic, cinematic, instructional or athletic spectacles.”
Within the four walls of the pub, the study claimed, “once a man has bought or been bought his chosen beverage, he has entered an environment in which he is a participator rather than a spectator.” Others who have studied the importance of pub and club culture mention that this idea of participation on equal ground is crucial to understanding what ‘the local’ is all about. It is a sense of belonging which makes the best local pubs and clubs. It’s what attracts people from all walks of life and the reason pubs and clubs have held their position as a focus for social meetings, even in this digital age.
Even the screen can’t beat your local
Why head to your local club when you could simply jump on a group Skype session with your friends? We would all agree — it’s just not the same! A 2008 report into ‘The Enduring Features of the Local’, notes it is no accident that pubs and clubs have evolved into regular parts of our daily lives.
The layout, the decor, the music in some cases, the games, the etiquette and ritual practices are all designed to promote positive social interaction, reciprocity and sharing. At the best local pubs and clubs, small groups find themselves at the same or adjoining tables with their neighbours. This creates opportunities to make friends and extend social networks.
Inclusion is a big drawcard
The feeling of being included and supported makes it an easy decision to return to the venue.
As one focus group participant suggested in the 2008 study, after home and work a central venue like a pub or club often represents a third principal focus for social interaction:
”It is like home from home. Even though we all live quite close together as a group of friends … like you could go to someone’s house for a few beers but that’s not quite the same … you’re used to being in your house and you’re used to being in your job and you want a place that’s kind of like home, (where) you don’t really do anything, you just sit there and chat.”
What makes the best local pubs and clubs?
The best local pubs and clubs get to know their local clientele so they can offer an experience which is highly enjoyable, welcoming and worth coming back for. As of 2015, there were over 1340 registered clubs in NSW with 6.7 million registered members. To add to that, there are thousands of local pubs. With so many venues to choose from, what makes people stick with one choice of venue, year in, year out?
The answer for each individual as to why they stick with their local may vary slightly but it will likely include one of the following:
- My local club or pub is within walking distance from my house
- It is open late, seven days a week
- There is a great selection of food and beverages
- The venue offers choice of dining options including counter meal, cafe or quality restaurant
- I go to my local club to skip the need to cook at home
- I can catch up with my friends and nobody has to do the dishes afterwards
Welcoming and safe
- The decor and inviting atmosphere feel welcoming
- There is familiarity with the staff
- The modern, lively feel / the cosy, welcoming feel
- I feel a sense of belonging
- It is a safe place to meet someone in person for the first time
- The chance to meet new people and have some engaging conversations
- To find ways to get involved with my local community
- Being around people I grew up with, or who speak my language
- For company outside of work and/or home
- To hear about what is going on in the local area
- An ability to socialise and meet up with friends
Entertaining and relaxing
- The range of events and activities on offer (e.g. promotion draws, bingo, bowls)
- To watch my favourite sporting matches in the company of others
- A great lineup of local and out of town entertainment
- The opportunity to enter competitions and win prizes
- To take a break from the pressures of home or work
As you can see, the list of reasons to choose and stick with a local is a long one! Each person may cite a different motivation but there is always that underlying sense of welcome, belonging and convenience.
Why join a local club such as Lantern Club?
As a member of your local club, you may have the opportunity to take advantages of discounts and special offers. However, the benefit of joining your local club and visiting regularly extends beyond saving money. It is also more far-reaching than visiting your everyday pub or hotel bar.
When you are a part of a club, your patronage allows it to continue supporting sporting teams and charities in your area. Delve into the history of any of these organisations and you will uncover years of volunteer work and member participation. They raise money for sick and marginalised people. They support people affected by natural disasters. And they fund vital local health and social services.
Everyone is welcome
The focus of every club in NSW is on community and the goal is to provide a welcoming environment for anyone who walks through the doors. Families, young singles and senior community members are all welcomed. It is an opportunity to truly go to a place where ‘everybody knows your name’.
For those working at local clubs, there are also great benefits. The chance to meet regulars and properly get to know them means they have a workplace which is exciting to come to each day. Often, these staff members work tirelessly outside of their normal roles. They’re happy to lend a hand when support is needed for a fundraiser or community initiative.
Community is everything
At Lantern Club, every team member works hard to support the local Canterbury Bankstown and Roselands communities. We help to fund education programs, welfare organisations, community and sporting groups. We are also very committed to our ‘PINK’ initiatives, which have raised a total of $250,000 to fund and promote breast cancer screening in the Canterbury Bankstown area. As a result, we are able to brighten the lives of our members, neighbouring families and those in need.
Over the last 11 years, Lantern Club has played a significant role in the donation of $16.6 million to local communities by our parent organisation, Mingara Leisure Group. It is our ongoing vision to make a significant contribution to the quality of community life and to support each of our wonderful local members.
If you’re looking for a new local in the Canterbury Bankstown or Roselands area, come and visit Lantern Club today. Once you have experienced our welcoming premises, fantastic food, lovely staff and friendly members, you’ll be excited to make it your very own home away from home.