The auction of landmark Brisbane music venue The Tivoli has been derailed by a neighbouring property owner and developer after an eleventh hour legal challenge to the auction was mounted.

The venue was scheduled to go under the hammer this week after the current owners, the O’Rourke family, decide to sell as part of a grander scheme to break up the family business and distribute the wealth of its various assets and properties.

The O’Rourke family had hoped to sell the venue to someone who would carry on the legacy as an iconic music venue. “I can’t see it being anything besides [a live venue]…,” said Tivoli managing director John O’Rourke at the time. “So I can’t see that being changed. I’d be surprised if it was.”

“We could see it as a site that developers may want to hold on to over time,” he added. “But I would imagine that the new owners would look to continue the business as it is for the time being.”

But that plan has hit a serious snag as it has now been revealed by the Brisbane Times that the neighbouring property owner has a reciprocal agreement for pre-emptive right of refusal on the property, and appears to have chosen to use it.

In lay-mans terms, a right of refusal on real estate generally means that the property must first be offered for sale to whoever holds the agreement, before it is offered for sale to a third party, like it would be in an auction.

The agreement is often used by developers who are looking to purchase neighbouring properties over time with the plan to redevelop multiple properties into one development. The Tivoli is currently zoned for commercial use and could be developed as an eight-storey complex under current planning laws.

Solicitors for the neighbour, whose identity has not been revealed, contacted the O’Rourke family and Ray White who are handling the sale, serving notice of their intention to take up the reciprocal agreement.

Along with the identity of the neighbour, his or her intentions for the property are also unclear, and it is not known at this point whether he or she would keep the venue operating as is or look for other opportunities for the site outside of music.

Though its origins stretch back to its beginnings as a bakery in 1917, it wasn’t until many decades later that the theatre-come-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.

But despite the last minute manoeuvre, Ray White are confident the auction will still go ahead at a later date. “Negotiations to resolve this issue are underway and are continuing,” a notice on their website reads.

“This issue should be resolved in the coming weeks and we believe that the auction will take place in four to six weeks.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed, because otherwise it falls to the likes of The Zoo and The Hi Fi to uphold Brisbane’s live music community with their larger rooms and accessible locations.

It’s a worrying state of affairs for the live music scene in Australia. The news of The Tivoli’s impending sale has a familiar ring to it after last week’s report of Sydney’s The Basement being put up for public sale. It’s a grim climate for Australia’s live music scene, with the last 12 months seeing 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.

It’s a distressing pattern nation-wide too, with Melbourne being the primary victim, following the recent closure of Phoenix Public House (after only six months) and the East Brunswick Club following its Laneway Festival sideshows; as well as both The Arthouse and The Public Bar in the last year. Along with the closure of Canberra’s The Greenroom and Brisbane losing The Troubadour.

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