Yesterday brought to light the sad news that Shebeen, the beloved ‘non-profit’ Melbourne band room and eatery, would be shutting its doors for good later this month, amid issues with the liquor licensing board and a nearby police station.

According to The Age, a dozen acts are still booked to play the venue, which was known for “donating 100 percent of [their] profits to the developing world“, and alternative venues are currently being arranged for those performances.

“Over the last 12 months it has become apparent that the wall of our band room is shared with the Melbourne East Police Station’s sleeping quarters,” the owners of the venue wrote in their official statement.

“As a result we have received significant pressure from the Police and the VCGLR [Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation], and we received an infringement notice from the VCGLR which we have unsuccessfully appealed.” The venue will close up shop on 25th June.

Tone Deaf subsequently obtained a copy of Shebeen’s venue licence and found that they’d been operating with a restaurant and cafe licence, which suggests the venue’s troubles had less to do with noise complaints than with breaches of their license.

Meanwhile, eyebrows have been raised over whether Shebeen has been donating its profits to charity as it purports. Speaking to Fairfax, co-founder Simon Griffiths revealed it’s unlikely the charities Shebeen purportedly benefits (as listed on their website) will be seeing any money.

According to Griffiths, who also founded Who Gives A Crap toilet paper, the venue is yet to recoup the money from the initial investment in the bar. “I think since making that investment we probably will not be able to donate in the end,” he said.

The venue’s website makes it clear: “We donate 100% of our profits, and your choice at the bar determines where they end up.” Neither Shebeen’s website, nor its Facebook page, which describes the venue as a “Non-profit cafe”, mention that monies would only be transferred once the owners’ investment is recouped.

According to the Shebeen website, “Every beer, wine, cider and margarita sale sends funds back to that drink’s country of origin. We’ve made sure your money ends up in the right pockets by scouring the globe to find some of the smartest organisations tackling poverty in the developing world.”

The venue would frequently take to Facebook to advertise new drinks being served at the bar and where the money from the purchase of the drinks would go. For example, sale of Bia Ha Noi beer would “help Room to Read provide eduction to school kids in Vietnam”.

“So sit back and leave us to do the hard work while you feel good—even tomorrow morning,” it continues. “You’re a smart chap, you already know profits from the sale of each drink at Shebeen go to a kick-arse program in that drink’s country of origin.”

The website goes on to list the charities associated with the venue — Room to Read, Digital Divide Data, KickStart, One Acre Fund, mothers2mothers, Vision Spring, Root Capital — with explanations on which bar purchases benefit each group.

For example, Room to Read, who work to develop children’s literacy skills in Asia and Africa, are supposed to receive profits from sales of Shebeen’s “South African wines and Savannah Cider”, putting “a couple of books in the hands of children in the developing world”.

When contacted by Tone Deaf Mr Griffiths refused to expand on his comments in The Age. He insisted a full media release was being prepared and would be released later today.

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When pressed on whether 100 percent of Shebeen’s profits have gone to charity as stated on the venue’s website, Griffiths responded, “We’re not engaging in false advertising. You’ll have a full release later today.”

According to ASIC, a company called Project Bar is the owner of Shebeen’s liquor license, and appears to be registered as a not-for-profit. However, the Shebeen domain name is registered by Shebeen Bar Pty Ltd, which is not a not-for-profit.

Tone Deaf has contacted Room to Read and Kickstart about their relationship with Shebeen but they did not respond in time for publication.

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