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Restaurants hit back at Bignell's footy crack

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Restaurants in Adelaide’s west end say penalty rates prevented them opening for breakfast before Saturday’s AFL match at Adelaide Oval.

Tourism Minister Leon Bignell took to social media on the weekend to criticise restaurants and cafes in Leigh Street, Peel Street and Bank Street for failing to open for breakfast or brunch before the 1.40pm Crows versus Swans match.

Bignell said on Facebook that it was “time for restaurants and cafes to realise AFL football has come to the city”.

“Despite a real Melbourne feel with footy fans decked out in Swans and Crows gear there is nowhere in Leigh St, Peel St or Bank St where you can sit down to breakfast or brunch before the game,” he wrote. “Fans are pretty annoyed. The only restaurant that was open at 11am says they can’t serve food because the kitchen is setting up for lunch which starts at noon. Most of these places serve breakfast Monday – Friday.”

The head of Restaurant and Catering SA, Sally Neville, said Bignell’s comments showed a lack of understanding of the cost pressures on restaurants and cafes.

“It’s certainly very disappointing for a minister to come out with such an aggressive anti-business stance,” she said.

She said Bignell should have talked to the businesses about the reasons why they weren’t open, rather than attacking them in a public way.

“Who is the minister to make such a claim – that he knows people’s businesses better than they do?

“All he’s done is alienate those businesses by sledging them in the media.”

Neville said most of the cafes and restaurants in the streets mentioned by Bignell had Monday to Friday business models because the costs of doing business on the weekend were too high.

She predicted that very few restaurants and cafes in the area would be open for the next Crows home game at Adelaide Oval – scheduled for the afternoon of Easter Sunday – because of penalty rates.

“The minister clearly doesn’t understand the costs of doing business on public holidays and weekends,” she said.

The owner of Leigh Street restaurant Rigoni’s, Tony Bailey, said he was considering opening for breakfast before the game – and then he did the numbers.

He said the large impost of penalty rates meant he would need to turn over what he earned on a Friday in order to make his money back.

“I’d need to have more clients than my capacity just to break even,” Bailey said.

Penalty rates on a Saturday meant he would have to pay a casual employee $25 an hour. However, all of his waiting staff are full-time or part-time employees, meaning their Saturday pay rates would range from over $34 for a junior to more than $40 an hour for more experienced staff.

“It must makes it completely unviable,” Bailey said. “And Sunday? I’m not even going to bother going there.”

Bailey, whose clientele is mostly corporate, was in the restaurant on Saturday doing some maintenance. He said eight people stopped to ask if he was open – the rest walked on by.

Jordan Theodoros, the co-owner and chef at Peel Street restaurant (named after the lane off Hindley Street), said while it would be good for the city to have a lot of cafes and restaurants open before a game, it didn’t make economic sense for his business.

“I get what he’s saying,” Theodoros said.

“(But) I can’t see people coming in for breakfast at 10am in the morning before a 1.40pm game.”

He said penalty rates were a key reason why he didn’t open, particularly with the margins on breakfast food being relatively low.

“I presume most people weren’t open because of penalty rates. It’s not really worth it from our point of view. We’re a small team – I was here until 1am on Friday night. You can’t be everything to everyone.

“For us, to be here on the weekends for breakfast just doesn’t make sense.”

Neville pointed out that while some restaurants off Hindley Street might have been closed, there were plenty of other dining options in the city and North Adelaide. Adelaide Oval itself had numerous food outlets that were open before a game.

The businesses on Leigh, Peel and Bank streets, she said, were either structured around Monday to Friday trade, or had small bar licenses.

Theodoros suggested pop-up food vans could fill the void.

Bignell told InDaily he wasn’t criticising local businesses. Rather he wanted to find ways for them to reap some of the benefits of footy in the city.

“It wasn’t sinking the boot,” he said. “It was about – footy’s here, how can people adapt their businesses to fit in with that?”

When asked about the cost of doing business on a Saturday, he said. “When you go to Melbourne, they’re all paying it, and making it work.”

Bailey questioned comparisons with Melbourne, considering more people lived in the Victorian capital’s CBD, plus the fact that there were two AFL grounds in the city.

Earlier Bignell said AFL in the city was a “learning experience” for everyone.

He told FIVEaa that cafes and restaurants were “perhaps basing their decisions on when they’ll open on the history but what we need to do is realise we’re in a new future now”.

“We’ve got games at 1.40, 12.40, 4.10, 1.10 and it’s going to be up (to businesses) to work out whether that’s viable or not but looking at the people walking up and down the streets that were basically dead, they were pretty annoyed that they couldn’t get in and get something to eat.”

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