It’s been just over five months since the shock announcement that St Kilda’s iconic Prince Of Wales hotel, which includes the Prince Bandroom, was being bought by a group known for redeveloping venues into gastropubs, but the doomsdayers may have been a bit off as the new owners reveal live music is very much part of their long term strategy.
Of course 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.
In fact new owner Julian Gerner and his Melbourne Pub Group have already started to invest both time and money into the bandroom to restore it to a premier live music venue.
According to Gerner, who spoke with the Melbourne Weekly, they’ve already doubled the circumference of the top bar and installed railings around the dance floor so punters have somewhere to put down their drinks.
“‘We’ll work it as hard as we can work it. If that isn’t enough we’ll look at it again,” Gerner says. ‘”We’re not all about turning things upside down.”
This is a slight change of position for Gerner who bore the brunt of the wrath when he came into the ownership all guns a’blazing declaring ‘we’re not entertainment operators … our focus is on food’.
After the installation of Bennett as band booker, Gerner also hatched a plan to host live music in the front bar seven nights a week.
“We want to support up and coming local bands so there’ll be live music every night in the public bar,” he said at the time. “The Bandroom has been, and is, an incredible space to see high profile, touring acts but the size of room makes it difficult to include emerging artists.”
“This is a way for the venue to foster young talent, and engage with the community, seven nights a week. And it’s an exciting way to get that small band culture back to the Prince of Wales.”
Those plans hit a roadblock when noise complaints, ironically from local neighbours, forced them to shelf the plans until the sound problems were fixed.
Gerner is now in the process of installing sound-dampening so the live music can return and residencies are apparently already booked. “‘I’ve just got to hit the button on it,” Gerner says as he insists he has “no intention of going through the public bar and completely reinventing it.”
“What we’ve done historically in single venues doesn’t suit what we’re doing at the Prince,” he continues. “The bones are so sound, it just needs a new energy and a new vision.”