Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sydney Morning Herald article on the Hopetoun

Hoey heave-ho upsets fans

September 29, 2009 - 3:53PM
Closed ... the Hopetoun will be shut until further notice.

Closed ... the Hopetoun will be shut until further notice.

FEARS for the future of a Surry Hills hotel mushroomed last night and today as patrons poured out their grief online after the much-loved live music venue was shut down for undisclosed reasons.

"The Hopetoun Hotel is closed until further notice," a notice stuck on the door said. "We apologise for any inconvenience to our patrons."

More than 3000 people today alone have joined an online petition - now with more than 5000 members - to "save" the hotel, as news of its closure spread rapidly.

The closure was unexpected. Various music websites had promoted events scheduled at the hotel until the end of November.

Finance, noise and security problems were suggested as reasons for the abrupt closure. The venue was one of the city's most popular for emerging talent.

An email announcing the closure was circulated to artists who were due to play at the hotel in coming weeks, said entertainment website thevine.com.au.

"Due to circumstances beyond the control of the Hopetoun Hotel we need to carry out significant works associated with Local Council requirements which necessitate the closing of our venue until further notice," Hotel owner Evangelos Patakas said in the email, thevine.com.au reported.

A City of Sydney council spokesman said the council had not ordered that the hotel close.

"The [council] understands that NSW Police, not council, recently issued a $3000 penalty infringement notice to the Hopetoun for failure to provide adequate security personnel in accordance with their development consent. This is a requirement of the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing," a spokesman said.

"The decision to close the Hopetoun appears to have been made by hotel management. The City has not issued any order for the premises to close."

The council had been working with the hotel in recent months to allow it to keep operating while resolving "safety issues concerning CCTV security and structural deficiencies", the spokesman said.

A source close to the hotel said the approval of a recent development application had meant the hotel had to comply with new regulations, including sprinkler systems, wheelchair access and security at live shows.

But the hotel had not complied and had been fined twice.

So the owners took the action of shutting down the hotel "before they got shut down and lost their liquor licence and live music licence".

While it was shut the owners hoped to raise funds, renovate and possibly re-open in the future.

The source said the Hopetoun's owner also felt the costs associated with keeping the hotel running were too high.

"He feels like the music community has bled him dry ... the sad truth is people running the pub probably didn't believe in the music community as we all hope and believe they do."

The hotel's management did not return calls either today or last night.

A "Save The Hopetoun Hotel" group on Facebook had more than 4000 members about lunchtime today. There were less than 2000 last night.

One patron, Angela, wrote: "Great, close another one of Sydney's best ever venues . . . no wonder Melbourne has the best and most flourishing music scene . . . this is bullshit!".

Others described the hotel as the "lifeblood" of the local community and music scene.

A band of regulars are trying to solve its apparent financial woes. Suggestions include donation drives, benefit gigs, an auction of signed band memorabilia and even a pool competition.

On the Facebook group "I Heart The Hopetoun", Kristin wrote: "If anyone is doing anything to help rescue the Hoey – me and all my 'old school' mates will definitely be on board! We all grew up there . . . from the rock against work days to now."

The issue had a steady following on Twitter under "savethe hoey".

Sydney band Dappled Cities, who played often at the Hopetoun, said the action to close the hotel was taken to preserve its future.

"There have been a number of council issues recently and management decided it would be better to close now rather than lose everything through council closure," band member Alex Moore wrote on the band's blog.

He said the "worst thing" would have been the hotel remaining open, losing its entertainment licence and then being forced to sell the building to a developer.

Musician Jamie Hutchings was due to play at the hotel on Friday.

With two support acts coming from interstate, Hutchings - who is also a member of band Bluebottle Kiss - said he was unsure whether they would be forced to cancel the show or find another venue at late notice.

He described the Hopetoun as "one of the few constants on the Sydney music scene".

"Live original music is a boutique market these days, not a money spinner, we should be encouraging venues like the Hopetoun to continue operating as easily as possible to keep it alive," he said.

The abrupt closure also caught off-guard the owners of Rider, a Mexican restaurant upstairs at the Hopetoun Hotel.

Co-owner Anna Sokol said while there had been frequent visits to the hotel in recent weeks by police, she had not been notified about the closure and arrived yesterday to find the hotel shut.

"We can't even get in there to get our stuff, we've got perishables and equipment," she said.

"No one's returning our calls."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/hoey-heaveho-upsets-fans-20090929-g9bz.html

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