If there’s a word that defines The General, it’s probably ‘community’. Or maybe ‘authenticity’. Possibly also ‘beards’, but that’s another story. The Genny, as it’s fondly known locally, is 365-day-a-year institution at Hotham and there’s a reason why people keep coming back to it.
With a vibe that reminds the Hotham Herald team distinctly of an inner-suburbs pub, it feels familiar even the first time you walk in. Good grub, great music, friendly staff, and quirky memorabilia plastered all over the walls and ceiling give it an easy feel that draws you straight in. The owners run the joint, and it’s the only place on the mountain with old school publicans, so chances are you’ll be greeted by name pretty quickly.
But don’t let the relaxed atmosphere fool you – another word to describe the Genny would be ‘quality’. It’s no accident this place is busy all year round, because there is a deliberate focus on quality in everything they do. Paul Hughes, aka ‘Blue’, runs marketing, events and security for the Genny, and says the place always offers value and quality because that’s what people want.
“We believe in old-fashioned service and providing value, that’s what keeps people coming back,” he says. “We have a lot of regulars and repeat customers, and we know it’s important to be consistent and provide a high-quality experience. People know, for example, that when they come here and order one of our pizzas, they’re always going to get the best pizzas on the mountain.”
Vegan and more
A new initiative that is proving popular is the introduction this year of vegan menu items. Every item is properly sourced, and as a result they have experienced a very strong demand.
“I think the choice to be vegan appeals in a sports-oriented environment like Hotham, with people who care about what they put into their bodies. It has been very popular and we think it’s important to cater for people who make that choice,” says Blue.
This reflects the Genny’s philosophy that while old favourites are important, it’s also necessary to embrace change and mix it up from time to time, so the menu features new items on a regular basis.
Supporting the locals
Regardless of what is currently on the menu, the Genny goes to great lengths to support local producers and suppliers.
“We think it’s really important to support local businesses, so we buy from people like the Harrietville Trout Farm, Harrietville Bakery, Mt Buffalo Olives, Milawa Cheese, and Vegitation produce in Mt Beauty to name a few,” says Blue.
This holds true for beverages – the Genny stocks goodies from Remedy Gin in Bright and Blizzard Brewery in Dinner Plain, including a Genny-tailored beer called Genny Draught.
It won’t surprise anyone, therefore, that the Genny is often the first to get behind local causes too.
“We’re participating in Parma for a Farmer right till the end of the season,” notes Blue, and they also support fundraising efforts by the local Dinner Plain primary school, Bright schools and sports clubs, Disabled Wintersport Australia, Hotham’s own Ski Patrol, and many more.
Something for everyone
Another important element of the Genny experience is, without doubt, the entertainment offered by the place. They successfully cater for all ages and tastes, so when you come for a night out you could be in for anything from acoustic to ska, funk, rock, hip hop or D J Eddy’s crazily eclectic club beats (and if you’re lucky he’ll have brought along his toaster to make you Vegemite on toast while he rides the decks).
Again, the community angle comes in – the Genny ensures they support local acts, so even when these acts make it big they keep coming back. Dallas Frasca, now an internationally renowned trio, regularly play the Genny during the snow season. The lead singer, Dallas, has been playing the Genny since she was 14, and still books Genny gigs thanks to the strength of the relationship.
The Genny has also got behind Bairnsdale hip hop artist Carole George, an indigenous musician and domestic violence survivor who draws on her life experiences to weave stories that connect strongly with her audience. Ms George, aka Rap Angel, first featured at the Cool Summer Festival, which is organised and hosted by the Genny.
“She’s incredible,” says Blue, “she runs her own record label and is helping other young musicians tell their stories.”
And no cover charge - ever
There is a band or DJ playing every week of the season, and the best part is – no cover charge!
“No, never have charged a cover charge, and never will,” says Blue.
If you don’t fancy rocking out or having a dance, you might prefer the Tuesday night trivia, or darts, or the occasional comedy night. It’s hard to find a night when there’s nothing going on.
“We try to include as many people as possible because we understand that communities are made up of a diverse range of people and if we provide them with what they enjoy, they’ll come back,” asserts Blue.
Living the dream
Blue himself is the epitome of community. He lives with his family year-round at Dinner Plain, has a background in community radio, and was originally a school teacher. He also demonstrates another key element of the Hotham experience -the importance of having a nickname.
Blue, obviously, is so-called due to the red dreadlocks and beard that give him a distinctly Viking air. The owners of the Genny are Sooty and Shaggy, and this writer honestly does not know their real names. It doesn’t matter, because everyone on the mountain knows who they are and we’ll keep going back for those damn good pizzas and coffee.
Main photo, left to right: Sooty, Shaggy, Cody and Blue
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