Reinvention fuels 25-year showbiz success

REINVENTION is the key to any business, says Civic Theatre Restaurant owner Max Kay.

“Nothing is just ‘good enough’ when people are paying. You can’t afford to be complacent in any business,” Mr Kay said.

“With my son Gary I’ve been able to keep the shows fresh. I’ve been known to rewrite something on the last night of a show.

“You can only blame so much on an audience. In my business one word in a joke can mean the difference between success and failure.”

Mr Kay said his restaurant, which included function rooms, had employed as many as 104 staff on a night.

“I never intended the business to get so big but it was part of the quest to do better,” he said.

That quest took Mr Kay and his wife Norma around the world every two years.

They would tour entertainment spots such as Las Vegas seeking ideas.

“It worked so well people were coming from the eastern states and using us as the benchmark for their shows,” Mr Kay said.

He said his time at the helm of the Civic had been a “planned fairytale”.

The journey started at the old Civic Theatre in Inglewood – now home to a bike shop.

It included a swimming pool, a prop that was too difficult to remove, but none of the trappings of a proper theatre.

Mr Kay bought the business from nightclub entrepreneur Peter Harris on the “spur of the moment” and had it refitted.

The business worked well for five years before problems with the landlord forced him to find new premises. The cost of buying and converting the old Globe meat processing works was nearly $500,000 more than Mr Kay had borrowed but the first year’s trade proved so lucrative, he was able to pay off the debt.

“One word in a joke can mean the difference between success and failure.”

Max Kay

Mr Kay’s family played a big part in the business’ success. Wife Norma makes costumes for the show, son Gary produces scripts, daughter Julie is a choreographer, son in law Brian Wood runs the restaurant and daughter Melanie is the business’ accountant.

“I’ve been very lucky. Having such a close knit unit is something you can’t buy,” he said.

Mr Kay has never worked at anything other than show business. He started as a rock singer in the UK and went into partnership with Scottish entertainer Andy Stewart before coming to Australia.

His desire to work in film, the only medium that has eluded him, helped clinch the decision to sell the Civic. However, while the restaurant goes, its parent company Almove will continue.

The company also owns a costume and set-making factory in Malaga and offices and a costume warehouse in Menora.

Along with the sale of the restaurant, he is looking to divest many of the property holdings he has acquired and transfer the money into managed funds.

Mr Kay wants to take the Civic’s show on tour around Australia and possibly even further afield – a venture he is prepared to fund himself.


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