By James Wilkinson

Drop by The Emerald Hotel in South Melbourne on any given Thursday night and you’ll find a group of regulars who call the pub their home. In fact, for social basketball team Not Bad Thanks, it should be a home with a mortgage given how much they’ve spent there on Thursday nights over the past 17 years — a whopping $237,000.

Like many social sporting teams across Australia, Not Bad Thanks uses the pub as a clubhouse — and for hoteliers, it’s a concept that has been bringing in the dollars since the first schooner was poured in this country.

The basketball club’s association with The Emerald, run by the Lewis family, emerged publicly in October 2007, when the Herald Sun ran a story about the club’s first premiership in 30 seasons. The paper used the headline “basket cases” and referred to the fact that the club meets at the hotel, sometimes before, and always after every game, played nearby at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

“They have been coming here ever since we took over 17 years ago,” The Emerald manager, Jane Lewis, told TheShout. “When they asked if they could put the honourboard in the bar, we agreed and we kept it there when we refurbished the bar recently. In any case, it’s a tasteful piece of furniture and draws a lot of comment. It’s got character.”

Not Bad Thanks captain Graeme Willingham said the figure of $237,000 the team has spent at The Emerald over the years is a conservative estimate.

“We have ten players that drink, say, an average of five beers each — allowing for the fact players stay for at least an hour and up to three hours, numbers of designated drivers and time of the matches — and you have expenditure each night of about $200 with the odd vodka and Cascade Premium in the mix somewhere,” Willingham said.

Given the team has spent $200 a minimum of 44 times (the amount of games) over 27 years, Not Bad Thanks has given the bar at least $237,600 — and that’s just beer, wine and spirits.

“Then there’s the occasional chicken parma, steak sandwich and hamburger sold to players over the bar after early games”, said Willingham.

“Some players gather there too for a lunch during the week, which is not part of the equation above. Nor are the company dinners and special events (like AFL grand final eve functions and company Christmas parties) for anything up to 100 people catered by the hotel in the restaurant for friends and business associates of Not Bad Thanks players who had been introduced to the hotel by individual players.”

Over the years, Not Bad Thanks and The Emerald have made the headlines, thanks to a game against the legendary Harlem Globetrotters as a publicity stunt and an apparent link with Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, who was one day photographed in Rio de Janeiro wearing a Not Bad Thanks singlet.

For more on the Not Bad Thanks story, see the May edition of bars&clubs magazine.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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