Sydney Loses Another Iconic Music Venue
It seems that the bleeding of Australia’s live music scene continues, with more distressing news of another venue closure this morning. Sydney counts another fallen victim with news that The Sandringham Hotel will be closing down to pay off substantial debts.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the beloved drinking hole, located in Newton’s King Street, has been placed in receivership with debts to Bankwest of $3.6 million.
Having stood at its current location for more than a century, and established itself as a grassroots live music venue in the 80s, the venue’s owner, Tony Townsend was rocked by the news when “three men in suits” arrived at the door. “They didn’t even call me, they just walked in,” said Townsend, “no warning, no nothing.”
Representatives of Bankwest, the suits told Mr Townsend that the venue was now under control of receives Ferrier Hodgson, to clear financial debts owed in attempts to refinance the Sando. Mr Townsend had been finding ways out for the venue over the last year, including a failed bid to sell the building and lease it back. The $3.2 million in debts covers a loan for the hotel’s original mortgage with St. George banks, while $300,00 in renovations were also to be accounted for.
Mr Townsend noted that the financial difficulties had become tough since the hotel defaulted, with the $16,000 monthly interest rate payment ‘blowing out’ to $48,000; an unserviceable amount during a vicious climate for live music and its suffering venues. Despite the difficulties, Townsend was proud of his achievements, “‘We’re only small but we’re I guess the biggest little rock venue in Sydney… we’ve taken it from one or two shows a week to quite proudly 120 bands a month,” said the venue owner.
Given his hard work to rebuild The Sandringham Hotel’s reputation as a live music venue since taking ownership several years ago, its imminent closure is a personal as well as professional blow. “It’s sad – it’s sad for live music, it’s sad for me personally it’s sad for my family,” said Townsend. ”This was supposed to be not only a legacy for us but, I guess, our income in retirement. And that whole dream’s gone.”
Morgan Kelly, a representative of Ferrier Hodgson who are handling the receivership, said the venue would continue to trade on “an as-usual basis”, maintaining its role as one of Sydney’s key music venues for the forseeable future. The financier adding, “I will be conducting an urgent assessment of operations and considering the best options for taking the business to market. We’ll have a better understanding of the market’s appetite for this asset in coming weeks,” says Kelly.
The Sando’s receivership is another fatal blow to Sydney’s live music scene, (a dire state of affairs we’ve discussed before) following recent news that iconic music club and jazz hotspot, The Basement, was being put up for public sale. While the city’s live music scene has already suffered the loss of multiple venues in the last year, including the closure of The Abercrombie Hotel’s doors after a suspicious fire, the passing of The Gaelic, as well as Tone Bar shutting down last August.
On 23rd February 2010, the SLAM rally saw 20,000 people march through Melbourne to the tune of AC/DC’s definitive ‘Long Way to the Top’, in protest against the Victorian Government’s misguided policy link between live music and violence. Out on the streets of our city, we showed our support and love for a truly great live music community. The SLAM rally was the largest cultural protest in Australia’s history. Now all of Australia has the opportunity to participate in a national event that celebrates our local musicians in our small venues.
Thursday 23rd February 2012, is National SLAM Day and a huge number of gigs are being held around the country to support local artists and venues. You can see a ful gig guide here of the day here. To celebrate our friends at SLAM have got together some of Australia's best musicians and asked them through a series of speech bubble photos what live music in small venues means to them.
Check out their answers on the following pages, and on Thursday help support the industry by getting out and experiencing the spontaneous excitement and intimacy you only get at a small venue. Watch this slideshow »