Whatever Happened To My Local Music Venue?
Ever wandered down on a Friday evening to catch a beer and some live music only to find your beloved venue has up and disappeared? We take a look over the last two years and the key events that have shaped the state of Australia's live music and its venues. Mostly for the troubles they've faced, with a large number being forced to close down. But it's not all bad news... some have managed to pull through while there's even been new venues that have sprung up. So if you've been wondering "whatever happened to my local music venue?" perhaps we've got the answer.
The Arthouse – Melbourne (April 2011) The venue management came up to the end of their lease and decided not to renew it, citing new Victorian Liquor Licensing laws requiring them to shut at 1am instead of 3am to avoid being labelled a ‘high risk’ venue – and thus requiring a bouncer for practically every patron that can fit in the tiny venue if it were to stay open and profitable.
The Crown & Sceptre – Adelaide (July 2012 ) This venue has gone into receivership with estimated debts of more than $1 million. Operated by ‘cocktail wizard’ Andrew McDowell, the venue had faced financial woes over a sharp drop in trade, the higher costs of labour, bills, liquor licensing and input costs have forced McDowell to put the venue up for sale; with liquidators Macks Advisory handling the receivership. A proudly poker-free music venue, the Crown & Sceptre had been operating under McDowell for 11 years, earning accolades in the 2011 Annual Bar Awards for Hotel of the Year and a runner-up the previous year for Australia’s best pub.
The Prince Bandroom - Melbourne (March 2012) The future of this venue was unknown when it was announced that the Prince Of Wales Hotel was brought by a group of redevelopers. But fortunately the new owners have revealed live music is very much part of their long term strategy. Their stewardship of the local institution got off to a rocky start when band booker Steve Kingi promptly quit after a disagreement with new management, but with a new booker found, Jamie Bennett, who ran Rocket Bar for six years in Adelaide, it finally seems like things are starting to get back on track. New owner Julian Gerner and his Melbourne Pub Group have already started to invest both time and money into the band room to restore it to a premier live music venue.
Phoenix Public House – Melbourne (June 2012) The recently refurbished Phoenix Public House in Brunswick’s Sydney Road rose from the proverbial ashes (re-fashioned from its original location as The Spot) late last year, but its tenure has been tragically cut short. Though it had begun the year hosting a diverse range of both emerging local talent like Brous and Last Dinosaurs, to taste making cult acts including The Twerps and Lost Animal; Melbourne must now say goodbye to its newest music venue.
The Greenroom – Canberra (April 2012) The management at the Woden Tradies Club, where it was based, decided to trial resurrecting the Greenroom, refurbishing part of the club and hosting live bands, but despite strong numbers and the fact that Karnivool were booked to play there in June, management then decided enough is enough. Greenroom manager Garry Peadon said the decision by club management to shut to project down was “very disappointing” and that he had been very successful in using his connections to book a number of high profile acts who usually skip Canberra in their touring schedules.
The Sandringham Hotel – Sydney (July 2012) 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.” Adding, “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.”
Tone Bar – Sydney (August 2011) The management team didn’t hide their feelings, releasing this statement in September: “So you’ve probably heard by now that we’re being forced from our current home. We can’t really go into the reasons due to ongoing legal action but needless to say, we’re copping a good ‘ol fashion Sydney shafting which is only too common place for our poor battered music community.”
The Basement – Sydney (June 2012) Owners Tim Read and Jane Burridge, who’ve had custody over the live music venue for the last 13 years, have decided to sell the business due to a change in “personal priorities.” The pair issued a press release stating that it was “time to hand the baton on to the next generation to take care of the legacy and be part of the future history of this wonderful club.” The Basement, originally founded as a jazz club in 1973 by Bruce Viles, changed hands in 1999 to the soon-to-be ex-owners Tim Read and Jane Burridge, along with business partner Chris Richards, in running the room. The public sale of the venue could spell the end of its history as a popular site for live music, as next March would have marked it’s 40th anniversary.
The Gaelic – Sydney (April 2012) The Sydney venue ceased hosting live music last April, and in a press statement, The Gaelic noted their successful run: "We would like to thank all the bands, promoters, bookers and punters that have supported us over many years.There have been so many memorable shows in The Gaelic’s time, from The Drop Kick Murphies, The Strokes, Silverchair, The Pre Sets, Helmet to The Used, Ben Kweller, Bookshade and Henry Rollins spoken word.” The Gaelic has continued trade as a bar and restaurant.
The Troubadour – Brisbane (November 2010) The publicity team from the music venue released a press statement a the end of last year with "news that will rock Brisbane – the heart and soul of Brisbane’s music community, the iconic The Troubadour will be calling last drinks and closing its doors forever come the end of November.” Noting that the "matter that has gone beyond the control of owners, Jamie Trevaskis and Corinna Scanlon," saying that "the dream is over."
The Reverence Hotel – Melbourne (July 2012) Some positivity amongst a climate of venues closing came earlier this year when former owners of The Arthouse, decided to delve back into the live music scene, opening the new Reverence Hotel this July. It’s located in Footscray at the former Exchange Hotel site, and hopefully will have more luck than other venues have lately. Its owners enthusing, "stay tuned for the kitchen and 2nd larger band room launches coming soon!”
The Public Bar – Melbourne (December 2011) A statement on the venue’s website read: “After 18 years of supporting live and local music in Melbourne, North Melbourne’s Public Bar will be closing its doors in December this year. We would like to thank all the punters that have supported us over the years and hope you can all come along and see your favourite bands raise the roof one final time. Stay tuned for more killer line-ups…” The Public Bar has had live music since 1993.
East Brunswick Club – Melbourne (March 2012) Unfortunately this iconic venue was sold to make way for a five storey apartment building, being announced at the end of 2011. The official statement read, “Sadly, all good things must come to an end. The East Brunswick Club will officially close it’s doors at the end of this summer. Venue owners Pete and Pam Benjamin have decided to retire from the hospitality industry and have sold the building. The new owners will not continue it as a live venue.”
The Tivoli – Brisbane (July 2012) Though its origins stretch back to its beginnings as a bakery in 1917, it wasn’t until many decades later that the theatre-comce-restaurant was given a facelift into the reliable music venue it is today. Its space holds a potential crowd of 1,500 standing or 700 seated, and stands as one of the few 1,000+ capacity venues still operating in Brisbane. Although it is now up for auction. Managing director John O’Rourke is confident it will remain that way, even under a new guise and owner, “I can’t see it being anything besides [a live venue]… so I can’t see that being changed. I’d be surprised if it was.”
The Annandale Hotel – Sydney The Annandale encountered some troubling times due to financial issues, and the general licensing laws that plague the live music scene. But with public campaigns and support from locals, the venue has managed to keep running. Thanks mainly to their innovation with fundraising, such as the ‘buy a brick’ scheme, which ensured its survival as one of Sydney's key live music providers.
The Palace Theatre– Melbourne The 2000 capacity venue which has played host to the likes of The Darkness, The Dandy Warhols, Queens Of The Stone Age, Kaiser Chiefs, and will host Splendour sideshows for Lana Del Rey and Miike Snow later this year, was listed for sale by receivers Ferrier Hodgson, with a number of developers reportedly showing interest which was “centred on the highest and best use for the property being a high-density residential project subject to the relevant planning approvals.” Although there’s been reassurance that business will continue as usual, this may be one to keep an eye on.
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