Adelaide’s live music scene is currently in a state of stifling flux following the South Australian government’s introduction of hefty new liquor licensing fees 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.
In response, Business Services and Consumer Minister John Rau introduced potential hope in the grim atmosphere of the city’s dwindling music scene, with the introduction of 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.
Today, Adelaide Now reports that South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill is now performing a bizarre backflip on the hefty liquor licensing his own Government enforced last month.
The licensing hike has been 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 fees introduced by the state government instead seek to impose a lock out via economic means by making it prohibitively expensive for small venues to open late.
But in a strange one-eighty, the Premier is now throwing support behind reviving the city’s live music scene, by announcing plans to introduce a music expert to work in collaboration with Mr Weatherill to develop strategies of overcoming newly introduced planning and licensing issues.
Mr Weatherill has begun talks for a new Thinkers In Residence program, likely to involve a business or educational agency, but did not reveal details of who would be involved nor how the new scheme would be paid for. The Thinkers In Residence program was initially conceived by Mr Weatherill’s predecessor, former Premier Mike Rann, only to be axed a few weeks ago in the state budget in a move to save on taxpayers’ dollars.
“We’re pursuing a Thinker in Residence for the live music idea and we’ve worked to collaborate with a bunch of people to get that to happen,” remarked the Premier. It’s a hypocritical move considering Mr Weatherill is attempting to counteract the same licensing problems he helped instigate.
He called seeking the expertise of a music or business professional a “great idea… for somebody to come here, do some thinking about how we can promote live music in South Australia. We haven’t put any boundaries on it.”
The problems are “not just limited to liquor licensing,” says Mr Weatherill, claiming that new regulations allowing the construction of taller buildings and towers in the CBD “is another big barrier.” The new building code is shifting the focus away from the construction and implication of smaller venues, the regular sites for bars, clubs – and more importantly – live music.
Despite his bizarre intentions, Melissa Tonkin, owner of Adelaide’s prominent gigging spot The Gov, told Adelaide Now that encouraging the youth to get out and see, as well as perform, live music was the key to revitalisation and that the new Thinkers In Residence program was a legitimate support to that. “We would love more people to get out of the house and support the bands and this could be a great idea to do that and help revitalise the city,” says Tonkin.
For Ross McHenry, 26, of local soul band The Transatlantics, the Thinkers in Residence program is a welcome addition to the Adelaide music scene. “It’s very good news,” Mr McHenry said. “It’s fantastic to see the State Government in line with that and committing to improve the scene and the vibrancy with the Thinkers in Residence program.”