Staff Profile: Alex Bastian

Hospitality Sweet

What makes a good hospitality lawyer? Alex will tell you it is someone who has worked in the industry and is still passionate about its people and places.

And that’s what makes Alex different to other lawyers who specialise in hospitality.

Before ‘turning lawyer,’ Alex worked as a manager in hospitality in both Australia and Canada, and as such, has an inherent understanding of the industry.

“I like to support my clients, so I enjoy socialising and attending client venues — probably a little too much.”

Alex believes this demonstrates to his clients that he is personally interested in what they do and what they are about, rather than just being interested professionally.

It’s a sound philosophy that he has employed with all his clients which cover the gamut of the hospitality industry and include a multi-national wine spirit company, family restaurants, new start-up and pop-up operators — from festivals to weekend cellar doors, hotel chains and major Australian wineries.

“People these days, especially in hospitality, don’t want a lawyer, they want a mate; someone they can bounce ideas off and be accessible to answer a quick question on the go.   A lot of clients also  want someone to show some empathy when things aren’t going in their favour.”

Alex has helped many people over the years and advocates three things that make a successful hospitality business.

“One: innovation and originality — people like seeing or going to places that have never been done before. Two: re-invention — some of the most successful venues are those that keep it interesting, whether it’s a whole re-vamp of the premises, or regularly changing the wine list or menu. And three: friendly staff — the worst thing a place can do is think they are too good for their patrons. Good, friendly service costs nothing but makes all the difference.”

A genuine passion for the industry and its plethora of sub-cultures gives Alex a good grounding to provide clients with real-world advice on issues relating to all aspects of liquor and gaming machine licensing.

“I was involved in an application for a small bar before the introduction of the Small Venue Licence. The application was the catalyst to new legislation being introduced because of all the hoops the applicant needed to jump through and the associated costs. The venue was a pioneer in Adelaide’s small bar movement.”

And in another pioneering moment, Alex relates his involvement in a controversial gaming issue.

“I am currently involved and providing advice on only the second application for a Gaming Machines Licence since the Social Effects Test was introduced some five years ago, so this is quite a contentious and hot topic.”

On a lighter note, Alex notes that irony in certain cases can bring a smile to his face.

“I was involved in one application for an extension to a prominent Adelaide pub which attracted about 20 resident objectors, with an average age of about 70. The grounds for objection was that they thought if the application was granted it would create too much of a noise disturbance. At the start of the conciliation, the Commissioner began by introducing the parties when one of the senior objectors piped up and asked the Commissioner to speak up as ‘they were all a bit hard of hearing’.”

Alex’s passion for hospitality, its culture and people is reflected in his belief that it is a ‘positive’ industry.

“ It is always important to remember that licensed venues, wineries, and pop-ups are all places people go to enjoy themselves. My clients provide a vessel or a means for which people can forget about the negativity in life, have a couple of beers with their mates, and talk nonsense for a few hours.”

We’ll drink to that Alex. Must be your shout I reckon.

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