Luke Darcy's pub success

Luke Darcy's pub success

Precinct Pub
Luke Darcy's latest venture, the Precinct Pub

What does a footballer do when his success on the sporting field is winding down?

Many an AFL player considers opening a pub. Melbourne is filled with watering holes owned and operated by footballers – although they don't all kick goals.

But one football star who has enjoyed a booming trade is Luke Darcy, the former Bulldogs captain who following his footballer father David Darcy into the business.

The Darcy Group is making a splash on the Melbourne pub scene with its chain of hotels: The Precinct in Richmond, Melbourne Public in South Wharf, The Motel in South Melbourne and its most recent addition, The Bridge Hotel, also at South Wharf.

“I speak to a lot of guys who are playing now [about what they will do after football]. For some it comes over them when they realise they might be in their last year or two years: 'Wow, what am I going to do next?',” says Darcy, who is also a television sports commentator and host of a popular Melbourne breakfast radio program.

“There's been a long history of footballers buying into pubs. I think it's probably because of the idea that if you're trying to attract patrons then someone with a profile would make a good publican.”

Luke Darcy, left, hosts a Triple M radio breakfast show alongside Eddie McGuire, among his other ventures.

Darcy grew up in the South Australian desert town of Roxby Downs in a pub operated by his parents, David and Janet.

“As kids, my two sisters and my brother and I used to live upstairs in the pub," he says. "We have a long history in the industry."

David Darcy also played for the Bulldogs, from 1963 to 1972, and left Melbourne to coach the South Adelaide Football Club. During his time in South Australia he also became a commentator and in 1979 entered the hotels industry.

Darcy snr says pubs are often considered a natural fit for footballers because the sport is a social pursuit and a post-game lager is part of the culture.

“It's a good segue to use that notoriety that you've developed through your football days,” he says.

“There were lots of footballers in pubs at that time, but a lot of them were backed by a financial supporter. They had the fame but they didn't have the money.”

But with the high income of professional footballers today, it is easier to invest in their own establishments than a generation ago, he says.

Darcy snr moved back to Melbourne in 2000 and bought into a pub in Dingley. Four years later, when he was semi-retired, Luke and his brother Matthew expressed an interest in joining the family business.

The first Darcy family project was the Anglers Tavern in Maribyrnong. The family sold it when they bought into The Precinct, whose rapid success enabled them to focus on expansion.

All four Darcy children are part of the family business, and this introduces its own challenges. Darcy snr says the formula for success is setting clear and distinct roles that don't overlap.

Daughter Kim Darcy has a background in human resources at global investment bank Merrill Lynch and now manages staff in the family business; Alysha Darcy used to work in the media and now runs the events side of the business. Matthew worked in operations in London and New York and now heads up new business opportunities and pub design, while Janet brings her vast knowledge of food. And Luke, on the back of his high public profile, takes care of marketing and publicity.

“The reason we can work together as a family is that we do have our own individual portfolios within the business. With four pubs now, we are spread out, and we're not working over each other's shoulder anymore.”

David Darcy says not all footballers have enjoyed success in their new careers as publicans, and there's a lot more to running a pub than most people realise.

“[It's] about having carefulness and having the right sort of procedures in place,” he says.

Luke says picking the location of a pub is one of the secrets to the family's success.

“Like any good investment, it's where they're located that is the key for us. It's not an exact science, particularly when you're trying to pick a new area in Melbourne. Everyone's got 20/20 vision in hindsight,” he says.

While footballers might rely on their reputation to draw the crowds, Luke Darcy says every publican knows not to build a pub for your friends.

“A lot of people think this will be great, my mates will come down, it'll be this big party. But your mates are the ones who don't want to pay – they want everything for free!”

For the original article from WA Today click here.