28/04/2011 - 00:00

Right place, right time at Lat28

28/04/2011 - 00:00


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Debbie Falconer has grown to love her role as a publican, even if it wasn’t planned. Emily Morgan reports.

Right place, right time at Lat28

DEBBIE Falconer didn’t plan to become a publican, but as it turns out she is having a pretty good time running Geraldton’s Lat28.

A farmer in the Mid West, Ms Falconer has always been interested in property development and when the pub’s seaside block was up for sale with a tavern licence attached, she decided it was a good buy.

Initially the plan was to build the pub and lease it out, but that didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated. With no proven business background Ms Falconer had little bargaining power, which made it difficult to attract a lessee.

Trying to find a manager with the right skills also proved difficult, so she rolled up her sleeves, settled on a name and started running Gero’s newest watering hole.

“Now I am here looking after it, I actually love the industry,” Ms Falconer told Gusto.

The pub was originally called Latitude28 but like any good country pub, the abbreviated name has stuck.

It has taken the two years since Lat28 opened in 2009 for Ms Falconer to get the business’s formula on the right track, but she has been helped by her past experience, and says farming and running a pub are similar.

“It’s very much the same really, you rely on the weather, and you have to be switched on about your environment, trying to gauge what is going on and where you are going to direct your business to,” she says.

“Farming is the same, if you put the crop in now, when is the winter going to break?

“It’s unknown, it’s not always readable and you don’t always get it right.”

Getting it right has been an ongoing process and Ms Falconer says piecing together the right team has been integral to growing the business, with 30 staff shared between the Lat28 bottle shop and the pub.

Lat28 has established itself as the ‘spot to be’ on a Sunday afternoon, according to Ms Falconer, with laid back fun and a family friendly vibe complemented by live music and a beachside location.

“We are finding the formula now and we are going to start really developing it. We are obviously onto something because with the bands we have a great reputation and are getting contacted by agents,” Ms Falconer says.

“Of all the successful pubs I know in Perth, that is the way they have gone.”

She says the pub isn’t limited to a young crowd and intentionally targets a wide demographic.

“It was a very conscious decision; I have to be here as well so I want to see people my own age. We have a good balance of female to male, so we don’t have the problems that can be associated with some pubs,” Ms Falconer says.

Rather than basing the bottom line on the number of beers patrons can consume, Lat 28 has modernised some old favourites on the ‘pub grub’ menu and worked to attract families.

“It is a hard business be in, but the responsibility is much greater than being driven by that extra sale. I am always conscious of that,” says Ms Falconer, who recognises the need to cater to the broadened demands in a growing Geraldton.

“The population is starting to really move and people are looking for something more, that is the market we are heading for,” she says.

“I think there is a place for us here. A lot of pubs in Geraldton have their clientele, but we are a fairly family-based pub, people feel at ease when they come here.

“We are a bit out of town, but I think town is growing towards us so our numbers are steady.”

Lat28 is currently on the lookout for new business opportunities, with Ms Falconer working to fill the bookings for the pub’s function space, located below the pub. It’s Ms Falconer’s pride and joy – an exposed-brick champagne and wine cellar where antique furniture surrounds a heavy wooden table.

“We have only just started doing that, but it has been very successful. We are finding other ways to drive the business,” Ms Falconer says.



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