It seems that the state of live music venues simply refuses to dislodge from our headlines, and for damn good reason. With a disconcerting nation-wide trend. Following today’s update on the blocked public auction of Brisbane’s Tivoli Theatre, recent news of Melbourne councils’ issues with a local record store and of course the controversy surrounding The Sando going into receivership.
Adelaide is the next to add to the grim toll, with Adelaide Now reporting that the city’s popular hotel, The Crown & Sceptre 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.
Despite its success and popularity on a local level, the Crown & Sceptre closed its doors on Monday 16th July, with Peter Macks of Macks Advisory indicating that trading had declined by 10% on the previous year, capping three lean years of trading as well as increased competition.
“The only thing coming from the meetings that I’ve had is I’m certainly quite hopeful (of a sale of the licence) and have been surprised about the positive interest in the business,” said Macks, adding that “the position is ideal and prominent.”
Meanwhile Ian Horne of the Australian Hotels Association was confident there would be “life after” the site’s receivership; adding “there’ll be suppliers who wouldn’t have been paid, bands have been booked. It’s a reflection of the problems in the industry.”
The South Australian government’s recent introduction of hefty new liquor licensing fees wouldn’t have helped, with new tariffs that sees any venues with a 200+ capacity paying upwards of $5,000 in order to continue trading and serving alcohol after 2am;vastly affecting the business and culture of many Adelaide-based clubs and live music venues.
Only for Business Services and Consumer Minister John Rau to advocate new, cheaper licenses aimed at creating laneway bars and ‘hole in the wall’ hotspots across Adelaide’s CBD, similar to Melbourne and Sydney’s night culture.
Even stranger was Premier Jay Weatherill’s bizarre backflip on the policies his own Government inflicted, offering an olive branch in the form of introducing a ‘music expert’ for its reinstated Thinkers In Residence program to work in collaboration on developing strategies of overcoming the problems his own instated licensing issues created.
The linitial icensing hike was seen as a cash-grab by the State Government after they failed to introduce new legislation that imposed a 3am lockout curfew on all venues. The new licensing instead sought to impose a lock out via economic means by making it prohibitively expensive for small venues to open late.
The Crown & Sceptre was obviously feeling the squeeze, and it’s not the only live music venue suffered fatally from the pressure.
To demonstrate just how severe and how often instances like this are occurring we only need to glance back a mere moth or two to trip over a long list of live music venues struggling all around the country. Victoria has been criticised for its ‘ridiculous’ all-ages policies and local councils’ bitter ‘fun police’ tactics. While Sydney in particular has a long and sordid struggle between pokie-lined beer bans and small club venues to promote local culture.
In more positive news, the bigger Australian tour promoters have been finding success, given a recent industry poll that put eight of Australia’s companies in the Top 100.