Pandemic pulls plugs on venues as Victoria throws $15m lifeline
There was good news for venues, however. The Victorian government threw a lifeline on the weekend, Darwin became one of the first cities in the world to announce new concerts and talks that Newcastle could dilute its harsh late-night lockout laws.
On the downside, Canberra’s largest indoor sport and entertainment venue, the AIS Arena, has shut its doors with no timeline for reopening.
Melbourne’s first drive-in concert venue, The Drive-In, also had to cancel its July season after Victoria’s unexpected second surge of the pandemic.
Resulting in new lockdowns in hotspot suburbs, many around the Flemington Racecourse site, “prevented the safe execution of this event,” said promoter Untitled Group, which was also faced with the possibility that interstate acts might not be able to come.
There were to be 10 four-hour shows in July, each with 500 cars. Those by Ball Park Music and Lime Cordiale sold-out, and others by Client Liaison, Alex Lahey, Baker Boy and Northeast Party House were running at 60%.
The Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton is on the market after a sharp fall-off of interstate and overseas tourists which it relied on for its major concerts and a live rodeo show at the back.
Brisbane’s Greaser in Fortitude Valley is taking an “immediate hiatus for the foreseeable future”.
Its social media post added, “Even with the improving restrictions we are not able to maintain the level of service that you have come to know and love from your pals beneath the streets.”
Nightclubs in Queensland have had restrictions lifted, but Surfers Paradise Licensed Venues Association’s president, Tim Martin, told the ABC “there’s no change” to their dismal future.
Martin, who manages three of Surfers’ 10 nightclubs, described the new social restriction rules as “confusing” and “we’re all pointed in different directions at the moment”.
He warned that after the closures or ownership changes at Empire, Revolution and Melbas that there’s going to be some operators that won’t be coming back, “and that’s devastating for a lot of other industries that the nightclub economy supports”.
ON THE UPSIDE
The Victorian government has set up the $15 million Victorian Live Music Venues Program to help venues with a 50 to 1,200 capacity and a proven reputation for supporting live music help pay wages and basic business expenses.
Announced by Victorian Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley, applications open July 16.
The program is in addition to the earlier $4 million to support musicians and industry workers who have lost gigs, income and employment as a result of the pandemic.
Victoria’s live music industry is valued at $1.7 billion and its venues draw 17.5 million a year.
The lifeline comes with two crowdfunding campaigns by two major venues, the Tote and Bar Open, to raise $70,000 each to say afloat.
Darwin is back to hosting concerts again. Its first major show is on July 24 at Darwin Si Club with Jon Stevens, Daryl Braithwaite, Shannon Noll and Thirsty Merc as part of Reset 2020.
Things are on the move to relax Newcastle’s stringent late-night lockout laws. These were imposed in 2009 to take on alcohol-fuelled violence, initially on 14 music venues and later expanded to bars and small traders.
With moves in Sydney to revitalise the night-time economy, NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello will meet with the city’s venue operators and other stakeholders this week to discuss a review of the rules.
“We will need a joint effort by the government, the council and industry to put in place the right foundations for a thriving and safe night-time economy in Newcastle,” Dominello said.