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Sunday Herald Sun - - News -

SHRINK­ING back­yards and soar­ing meat prices are killing off the Aussie tra­di­tion of big house par­ties and bar­be­cues.

Cosier din­ners are re­plac­ing larger gath­er­ings in many homes as more peo­ple move into flats or try to trim food bills, new re­search sug­gests.

And free­loader friends be warned — even hosts of smaller af­fairs in­creas­ingly ex­pect you to front up with some booze.

The shift in how we en­ter­tain at home was un­cov­ered while track­ing liquor-buy­ing habits.

“The large house party cen­tred around a BBQ, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the footy fi­nals, ap­pears to be on the de­cline,” con­sumer trends spe­cial­ist Mike Cas­sidy said. “The big, loud party is out, and the small din­ner gath­er­ing is in.”

The study of shop­pers buy­ing al­co­hol to drink at home found big par­ties was the rea­son for 3 per cent of store vis­its — down from 10 per cent in 2011. In con­trast, “just hav­ing a cou­ple of friends over for din­ner” grew from 12 per cent to 18 per cent.

The na­tion­wide sur­vey, by trends agency Koji, also found: DIN­NER party hosts spend an aver­age $35 on al­co­hol — down from $48 six years ago. THOSE hav­ing ma­jor par­ties with more than eight guests spent an aver­age $103, up from $98. WINE has re­placed beer as the top drop for din­ner par­ties. BEER is still the pre­ferred choice for big party oc­ca­sions.

Mr Cas­sidy, co-founder of Koji, said guest lists were be­ing culled as liv­ing spa­ces shrank.

“The re­al­ity is that Aus­tralians liv­ing in an apart­ment, unit or town­house just don’t have the space any more to host a big back­yard party.

“We also run the risk of up­set­ting neigh­bours who live closer than ever be­fore.”

Oth­ers held fewer big bar­be­cues to save on meat costs.

“As house prices and costof-liv­ing pres­sures con­tinue to

AL­CO­HOL ATHOME

Per­cent­age of liquor store vis­its rise, con­sumers are be­com­ing more wary of ex­pen­sive food items and meat is very much some­thing they think about.”

Aus­tralian Bureau of Statis­tics data shows the price of beef rose 24 per cent in the past five years.

More adult chil­dren were also liv­ing at home with their par­ents well into their 20s, mean­ing they needed per­mis­sion for large gath­er­ings.

Re­spon­si­ble drink­ing mes­sages also ap­peared to be hav­ing an ef­fect, es­pe­cially among younger drinkers.

A third of sur­veyed shop­pers re­ported re­duc­ing or avoid­ing al­co­hol for a health­ier life­style — up from a quar­ter in 2011.

Mr Cas­sidy said mi­grants from coun­tries where liquor was less cen­tral to so­cial gath­er­ings con­trib­uted to a shift away from big booze-ups. ONE of the big­gest puzzles about The Doc­tor Blake Mys­ter­ies was why it was can­celled this year de­spite be­ing one of the ABC’s most suc­cess­ful TV shows.

The de­ci­sion has baf­fled the show’s star, Craig McLach­lan, who plays Bal­larat po­lice sur­geon Lu­cien Blake.

“It has been a cu­ri­ous year,” McLach­lan said. You have to ques­tion why a de­ci­sion like that would be made to take away the high­est-rat­ing show. It makes no sense.”

How­ever, there is hope yet for the 1950s mur­der-mystery se­ries. Thou­sands of fans signed an on­line pe­ti­tion to keep the show alive and McLach­lan hints that it will con­tinue, but he hasn’t said whether it will re­turn to the ABC or to an­other net­work.

“At this point I should prob­a­bly just say, just like Lu­cien’s pretty handy at solv­ing a mystery, I think George (Adams, the show’s cre­ator) and I will ul­ti­mately solve this mystery,” he said.

McLach­lan is now film­ing a tele­movie that’s set to round out the se­ries, and has fin­ished work on sea­son five, which is just about to air.

“I play Lu­cien Blake and I love it,” he said.

“I give him every­thing I’ve got. I may not be tor­tured and mis­er­able on set, but I put the hours in. I vir­tu­ally learn a whole sea­son like a play be­fore we get into it. ”

The Doc­tor Blake Mys­ter­ies re­turns to ABC and ABC iView with se­ries five pre­mier­ing tonight at 8.30. AAP

Marc An­gelovski, Zerah Gor­don, Alex Van Der Horst and Char­lotte Walker en­joy a cosy gath­er­ing. Pic­ture: MARK STE­WART

Larger party Smaller party Din­ner party Meal (not en­ter­tain­ing) Re­lax­ing /wind­ing down Other 3% 6% 18% 24% 43% 6%

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