Last Tuesday we reported that that legendary pub rock venue, the Sandringham Hotel, would be going into receivership, forcing the live music hotspot to close its doors after nearly twenty years due to financial struggles and debts of $3.6 million.
The Sando’s owner, Tony Townsend, who had been working hard to rebuild the venue’s reputation since taking ownership several years ago, counted its imminent demise as a both a personal and professional blow. “It’s sad – it’s sad for live music, it’s sad for me personally it’s sad for my family,” said Townsend. ”This was supposed to be not only a legacy for us but, I guess, our income in retirement. And that whole dream’s gone.”
Following the reports, yesterday FasterLouder published an opinion piece by local Sydney musician, Brendan Maclean, in which the sometime Triple J presenter (and upcoming Great Gatsby star) said that ‘The Sando isn’t worth crying over.’ But today The Annadale Hotel has come out in support its fellow live music venue calling Maclean “an imbecile” and his comments “stupid” and “uneducated”.
It all started with Maclean’s controversial editorial, in which he spoke from the perspective of a local musician, criticising Townsend’s methods in booking and running the venue. “For anyone who has ever signed up to play The Sando,” he writes, “this isn’t a surprise and to most it’s not really a loss.”
While Maclean lamented the passing of the Newton venue, calling it “disheartening that the spotlight which shone on iconic homegrown acts has gone out.” But aimed the faults of the Sando’s demise squarely at Townsend. Accusing him of threatening musicians with fines for not pulling large crowds, complains about sound bleeding at the venue, and their policy of : “no green room. Beers at the bar.”
Maclean’s article also referenced his appearance at the I Manage My Music forum, part of Melbourne musician Jen Cloher’s ongoing discussion workshops for independent artists; where Maclean stated: “Perhaps if venues want to thrive in Sydney they need to stop pretending independent musicians will pull capacity audiences with no assistance.”
Today, in response to the opinion piece, fellow Sydney venue – The Annandale Hotel – came out swinging against Maclean and and threw their support behind Tony Townsend and the difficulties of running a live music venue.
The Annandale has itself faced its fair share of problems, and at one point was staring down the barrel of its own imminent closure. Its struggles have included a long-standing legal battle with local council over noise complaints, where they eventually found favour with the Land and Envrionment Court, and managed to save the venue using their novel buy-a-brick scheme in a last ditch attempt to save the iconic Sydney venue.
The Annandale Hotel released the following statement on its Facebook page, presumably written by Matt Rule, one of the brothers who operates the venue:
“Brendan Maclean, I’m not sure if I’ve met you around the traps in my twelve years of owning the Annandale Hotel but on this occasion you are an imbecile. It amazes me how keen people like you are to put the boot into someone who has fallen on hard times. Ask any small business owner how tough it is at the moment to stay afloat and you may start to get an indication of the difficulties facing independant operators.
Sydney is the most regulated city in the country if not the world; add to that the difficulties in getting people to shows, not to mention actually getting promoters and booking agents to put shows on anywhere outside of Oxford street and Kings Cross, the endess licensing, resident and council issues a business like The Sando surely had to face, and maybe you should be commending the Sando crew for having a crack for the last seven years instead of complaining that you had to go the bar to get a beer.
It surprised me how much critisicm we received here when we took down the ‘For Sale’ sign and started the buy a brick campaign from certain circles. It was keyboard commentators like yourself who threw out the most uneducated comments about how and why The Annandale got to the position it ‘is’ still currently in.
At the time we didn’t return fire as we felt it was only justifying what were cowardly ill-informed barbs from people who really had no idea. Brendan and the rest of you armchair commentators who feel more comfortable throwing your ‘expertise around’ from the safety of your keyboards, you will find me pretty much 7 days a week at The Annandale Hotel. Please come down and enlighten with me your experience and expertise in how to run a live music hotel. Apparently you’re a sometimes triple j presenter, do the right thing and find out what is really going on before you make such stupid public comments.”
In related news, yesterday NSW Labor announced a new campaign to support live music venues struggles and called local councils out on their ‘fun police’ tactics. Labor plans to motion the new “Labor Loves Live Music” campaign to the NSW Labor conference this coming weekend, aimed at connecting with young voters and urging councils to enact planning controls that promote live music and the protection of existing venues.