Just a few weeks ago, thousands of music lovers turned up to rally to save much-loved Sydney live music venue The Sando to protest what many see as heavy-handed tactics by the venue’s bank, who put the company into receivership early this year and are attempting to sell the building in question to the highest bidder.
Since then, a lot of double speak has been going on with both sides of the battle for the venue accusing the other of bad business.
According to The Sando’s publican Tony Townsend, the bank’s actions are said to be part of what it called ‘Project Magellan’ – a program set up by BankWest after it was taken over by Commonwealth Bank to reduce their debt risk and move marginal businesses outside their lending guidelines.
BankWest allegedly showed up at the venue without warning demanding the owner, Tony Townsend, pay the remaining $3.6 million of the loan within a week or else both Townsend’s and The Sando’s assets would be liquidated to pay for the loan.
Of course Bankwest see things somewhat differently. “This customer continued to be in default throughout 2009 and 2010, including non-payment of interest on the debt and also non-payment of Land Tax to the NSW Office of State Revenue,” they told Tone Deaf after the rally.
“As Mr Townsend did not take the necessary steps to resolve his financial issues and following an extensive period of time working with the customer, the Bank appointed receivers in July, 2012.”
But differences of opinion aside, and despite the emotional resonance that the potential loss of another live music venue in Sydney has had on the local community, things have remained civil. Or at least they had.
Now Tony Townsend has launched an extraordinary broadside at BankWest, accusing them of personally attacking both himself and his family, including his mentally ill sister despite knowledge by both the bank and receivers of her fragile condition.
“I really haven’t really said much for a while now regards this situation,” says Townsend. “But enough is enough. I can deal with business and the one on one attacks, but this is not the way it is now going.”
“Firstly, I must say I appreciate all the support we have received with the rally and the email, Facebook and Twitter interaction. The creditors, suppliers and friends have been great… Immense guys Immense…. Plus the on-line petition participants, physical petition participants and the support network. Man the support has been huge.”
“The bank has now raised the ‘ugly’ bar through the receivers and is now personally attacking my family. My very sick sister ‘Louise’ and her secure dewellings are now under attack. As such her life is now under threat due to these arsehole’s behaviour.”
“She is now at risk of an episode – she is a mental illness pensioner and a certified schizophrenic. This my friends has now created a major problem. I love her. Do you know what this means? I am her carer and I do, it’s not good.”
“I try to make her fit in and feel comfortable in a world that is so difficult for her to exist in. Those of you that know her/me know what I am talking about. I am her brother, I love her and I try as much as I can to help her exist in our community.”
“It’s not easy as she has many issues… The bank have now created probably the worst scenario for her since the death of her mother in 2006. Massive de-stabilisation.”
“This is a despicable act and so damaging to her (both the receiver & bank are aware of her issues), she could in fact end up re-admitted to hospital if they don’t back off… It’s no joke this is hideous behaviour and spiteful action by Ferrier Hodgson/BankWest which was ultimately under taken to impact on me…. This is totally unacceptable.”
“We all need to realise CBA is very, verty big, we are so small. Together however (in numbers) we are equally. Stand by us please.”
The fight to save The Sando comes amidst a backdrop of massive changes to the liquor and live music industry in Sydney, since issues surrounding the industry came to a head following the death of teenager Thomas Kelly in a senseless attack in Sydney’s King Cross in July.
The issue of alcohol-related violence has now become a political platform for pokie-lined pub venues and politicians alike, with the New South Wales Premier keen to reintroduce either a 1am or 2am lock out in the CBD.
The move comes amongst other measures to crack down on licensed venues, such as a ban on glass and the sale of RTDs and shots after midnight. Also part of the new restrictions, on Friday and Saturday nights venues will not be able to sell alcohol in the hour before closing.
UPDATE 6PM 12th September: Following on from our enquires earlier today, a representative from Bankwest has spoken with Tone Deaf but wouldn’t address Townsend’s claims of personal attacks.