News March 17, 2021

Over 200 venues call for easing of capacity restrictions in Victoria

Over 200 venues call for easing of capacity restrictions in Victoria
Pictured: The Living End at The Corner

Over 200 live music venues in Victoria have sent an Open Letter to the state government today, asking for “a clear and balanced roadmap” for easing restrictions and increasing capacities.

Operating at 30% capacity has lead to a 70% drop in income – which will not be helped when JobKeeper switches off in a matter of days.

The open letter was coordinated by Save Our Scene, which mostly represents grassroots venues.

Signatories include The Corner Hotel, The Espy, The Forum, Colour, The Prince Bandroom, The Old Bar, The Evelyn, The Curtin, Whole Lotta Love, Bar Open and The Tote.

“Help us to preserve this vital cultural sector for the long term by increasing venue capacities now”, the letter reads. “Don’t be fooled — Victoria’s live music venues are open, but we are not ok.

“Our live music venues reopened three months ago restricted to less than 30% of regular capacities, with the support of JobKeeper.

“Now JobKeeper is ending, the bills are piling up, and we cannot trade out of it.

“We call on the Victorian government to urgently provide a clear and balanced roadmap for easing restrictions so that the live music industry can begin to trade sustainably.

“Following 9 months of closure, Victoria’s live music venues recommenced operating in December 2020 with COVID safe capacity restrictions, based on a density quotient of 1 person per 2sqm.

“These restrictions mean our venues are operating at around 30% of their licensed capacity, resulting in a 70% drop in revenue whilst fixed costs including rent, insurance, utilities and staff remain static.

“We applaud the Victorian government for last year’s $15 million Live Music Venues Program, which helped save many Victorian venues from permanent closure.

“However the majority of venues are still severely debt-laden from 9 months of closure and have only been able to reopen at such low capacities with the support of Jobkeeper.

“The reopening of live music venues has seen Victorian artists performing again and our industry’s live music and hospitality workers back in employment.

“Help us to preserve this vital cultural sector for the long term by increasing venue capacities now.”

Save Our Scene Victoria also reminds the powers-that-be that while some in government are partial to increases in attendance for the tennis and AFL matches, pre-covid studies showed that on a Saturday night, music gigs drew over 110,000 patrons.

That’s more than an AFL game.

The letter goes on to states: “The industry generates tens of thousands of jobs, from musicians and DJs to bookers, promoters, publicists, venue operators, hospitality and bar staff, technicians, security staff and a vast network of ancillary suppliers and contractors.

“Music venues are the critical infrastructure of this industry. If our venues disappear, the live music economy will disappear, and our cultural heritage will go with it.

“Australian artists will have fewer places to perform, to grow, to find fans. Our music venues can not survive without Victorian government intervention.

“So please, protect our music venues. Support our artists. Save our scene.”

SA live music venues also make a plea

Today’s move in Victoria follows a similar Open Letter sent this week by 120 Adelaide pubs and venues to the South Australian Premier Steve Marshall to allow more customers before they are forced to close their businesses.

Under Hospo Owners Collective banner, they asked for rules to allow for one person per 1.5 sqm, instead of one per 2 sqm, and for dance floors to be allowed 100 patrons over the current 50.

It also called for a clear pathway for future changes to restrictions, saying many of them are in a “holding pattern that is causing a great deal of emotional, mental and financial stress”.

“We are all in pain,” the letter stated. “I respectfully request that you give us some breathing room, some hope and a pathway to hold on to and move towards.”

The sector was worth $4.3 billion to SA’s economy pre-COVID and employed about 26,250 according to a study by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies at the University of Adelaide for the Australian Hotels Association SA.

Related articles