Monday, October 26, 2009

Relief for live venues as regulations relaxed

Relief for live venues as regulations relaxed

By Lucy Carter

Posted Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:16am AEDT
Updated Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:46am AEDT

The Hopetoun Hotel in Sydney closed its doors on September 28

Closed: The Hopetoun Hotel in Surry Hills. (ABC: Emma Swift)

Over the past few weeks, the future of live music in New South Wales has been closely scrutinised.

Several well known music venues have closed or said they are in trouble. All of them blame state and local government regulations.

The New South Wales Government says it will now cut red tape and abolish 'Place of Public Entertainment' or POPE licences which are required for venues to host live music.

Planning Minister Kristina Keneally says these changes will reinvigorate the music scene.

"What it means is that from Monday (October 26), local restaurants and pubs will no longer need development approval if they want to host live bands or musicians," she said.

"We've got a lot of young performers in this state. What this change does is make available to them a whole host of new venues.

"They can use this to build a fan base and get experience performing live."

But venue operators are not convinced it is enough.

The Annandale Hotel in inner Sydney has been trading since the 1930s and has hosted acts like Jet, The Hoodoo Gurus and You Am I.

But in recent weeks, its owners have indicated that they are struggling to stay afloat in the face of constant regulatory battles.

Co-owner Matt Rule says he is interested to see how the abolition of POPE licences will affect venues.

"They look like they are quite handy little changes to be able to get music back into smaller venues," he said.

"Addressing a lot of those issues in regards to having to go through big applications and changes to your venue just to put everyday music on is very positive.

"I'd be interested to see how it affects venues like us in regards to how we continue working with our current code or how we renew it, or if it just goes away."

The owner of Sydney's Oxford Art Factory, Mark Gerber, agrees that it looks like a nifty way to eliminate red tape.

"I can talk from experience here we had to do a DA application and also had to apply for a public entertainment licence," he said.

"So two separate boxes had to be ticked, which can be quite costly.

"If you can do all in one, because it is all one venue after all, I think it'll make things easier for people."

But both say getting live music back on its feet is more complicated than just cutting red tape.

The Annandale's Matt Rule says if politicians are serious about supporting the industry, they will look at other issues.

"The ongoing problem, - I don't know if it's going to be sorted so easily - is the resident issue and claims against small businesses," he said.

"Also having realistic noise conditions placed on hotels and people exiting and coming to venues and the noise associated with that.

"Until you have a more flexible ruling on that, it's going to be difficult."

Gerber from Oxford Art Factory says that the future of live music also lies with the general public.

"It's not just down to the government or the council lifting some of the rules and regulations," he said.

"I think we have to look at the industry as a whole.

"The support from the public is kind of an ebb and flow thing - some gigs are really busy others are dead and yet you're standing in front of a possible future Wolfmother.

"So it's down to the public as well to come out and support these acts."


Sunday, October 25, 2009

NSW Govt Cuts Live Music Red Tape

NSW Govt Cuts Live Music Red Tape

News posted Friday, October 23 2009 at 04:00 PM.

NSW Govt Cuts Live Music Red Tape

After a gloomy month of closures and near-closures, Sydney’s beleaguered live music scene is about to receive a timely boost.

In an effort to cut the red tape for live entertainment, the NSW Government has no longer made it necessary for venues to require a special Place Of Public Entertainment Licence (POPE) to host gigs. Under the old system, venues could not provide live entertainment without a POPE licence, which carried expensive ongoing costs and often required a substantial building upgrade to obtain.

Speaking to reporters today (October 23), NSW Planning Minister Kristina Keneally said the new directive would open up the floodgates for new venues and increase opportunities for local musicians. "The abolition of the POPE licences mean local eateries and watering holes no longer need development approval if they want to host live bands or musicians," Keneally told AAP.

But while the bureaucratic process of hosting live music has been eased, the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing still has the power to add liquor licence conditions to regulate security, trading hours, patron numbers and other matters at venues as it sees fit. Make of that what you will.

The new system will come into effect on Monday (October 26). For more information click here.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Annandale Hotel in trouble?

First it was the Hopetoun and now it looks like the Annandale Hotel is facing tough times in the future with trouble from Leichhardt Council.

Jamie Parker, the current Mayor of Leichhardt Council, is likely to be the Greens candidate for the seat of Balmain in the upcoming NSW state election in 2011. It's a marginal state seat the Greens want to win.

The NSW Greens policy on Arts states that they will:
Protect the provision of live entertainment in pubs and clubs
The Greens also have an outright majority on Leichhardt Council. They have the ability to change council by-laws and regulations to make it easier for venues like the Annandale that are vital to the local Sydney music scene.

You can email Mayor Parker to urge him and his fellow Green councillors to actually uphold his party's policies and support live music at the Annandale Hotel at

Call for live aid

Call for live aid

Legacy … Jet's Nic Cester performs at the Annandale Hotel in 2006.

Legacy … Jet's Nic Cester performs at the Annandale Hotel in 2006.
Photo: Domino Postiglione

October 9, 2009

The pressures that closed the Hopetoun have other venues worried, writes Rachel Olding.

As the scramble is on to reschedule the now-closed Hopetoun Hotel's gigs, some of Sydney's most-loved live music venues fear a similar fate.

Crippling red tape, gentrified suburbs and rising property values have made live music a frustrating and exorbitantly expensive business for Sydney's venue owners.

''On top of all the hardships that live venues have to deal with, the number one hindrance to our business has been our local council,'' says Matthew Rule, who, with his brother, Daniel, has owned the Annandale Hotel since 2000.

He claims they have been fighting Leichhardt Council for eight years on everything from development applications to outside seating. An ongoing five-year Land and Environment Court saga over late-trading and noise compliance cost them more than $200,000.

"We're having our last throw of the dice,'' Rule says, referring to a development application being submitted for an improved hotel with a refurbished restaurant.

"We've had to go back and loan and refinance to pay our legal fees to survive. This is for a hotel that supports live music, supports local talent, has never had an issue with the police and has gone from 15 poker machines to nine, which is the lowest we can go.''

Leichhardt mayor Jamie Parker says the council is ''trying to work out ways we can support venues like the Annandale''.

''Everything apart from fire safety and patron safety we can try to work at,'' he says. ''When it comes to security, when it comes to noise management, there is always five different ways you can solve one problem so that's where we just need to keep on having that dialogue with the Annandale.''

Likewise, the City of Sydney Council has pledged to work with venues like the Hopetoun - but its doors remain closed, at least until the new year.

"To say live music is dead is wrong," the owner of Newtown's Sandringham Hotel, Tony Townsend, says. "But it's become difficult keeping up with the changes in legislation and it's somewhat difficult, even in an area like Newtown, appeasing the neighbours."

Owner of the Sando since 2004, Townsend spent close to $250,000 in legal fees, sound measurement and acoustic protection following residents' complaints.

"While it cost the residents the price of a stamp and a letter, all the onus was on us to prove we complied. If I didn't have that sort of capital up my sleeve then it would have closed the live side down," says Townsend, adding that the Sandringham Hotel now runs

120 acts a month and has the numbers to justify a new 300-seater live music space due for completion late this year.

Townsend credits a late-trading license for the Sando's success, saying a couple of extra hours after a show allows people to have a drink and ''makes all the difference''.

Industry insiders say the loss of another venue like the Hoey would further prevent new bands from being found and honing their craft.

''It's going to be a struggle for those smaller venues always but they've got to be there - otherwise the flow-on of musicians from the ground level won't happen,'' says Adam Yee, a booking agent and promoter.

''I dread to think what happens if the Excelsior and the Annandale follow the same route as the Hoey.''

Determined to survive, some venues are opening later and for fewer nights a week or seeking out corporate dollars. The Metro Theatre, after facing financial troubles, signed a two-year naming sponsorship deal with Virgin Mobile last month. The Annandale did the same with Jagermeister in 2004, allowing for events such as Jager Uprising, a weekly competition for young bands.

The general manager of the Oxford Art Factory, Mark Gerber, says his venue was designed for more than just live music.

''You can't look at live music as a seven-day-a-week venture, we don't have the numbers,'' he says. ''Some of our smaller nights with these upcoming bands are bankrolled by corporate functions.''

But the public still have the power.

''If all the people that complained about the Hoey [closing] actually went to see a band and bought a beer, it would not have closed down,'' Gerber says.

''Live music needs live audiences; audiences that drink a couple of beers while seeing the talent that Australia has to offer. Those couple of beers might allow venues the funds to stay up to date with new regulations governing places of public entertainment.''


Another rock hotel faces heartbreak

Another rock hotel faces heartbreak

Sound of silence ... Daniel and Matthew Rule blame Leichhardt Council for the woes of their venue, right.

Sound of silence ... Daniel and Matthew Rule blame Leichhardt Council for the woes of their venue, right.

Rachel Olding
October 9, 2009

LAST week it was the Hopetoun Hotel in Surry Hills. Now another leading live music venue, the Annandale Hotel, is under threat because of mounting costs and council demands.

The hotel's owners, Matthew and Daniel Rule, inherited a few gigs when the Hopetoun closed its doors, but fear they will ultimately face the same fate.

The brothers say they have been fighting Leichhardt Municipal Council for eight years over noise compliance, late trading and development applications to upgrade parts of the hotel.

An ongoing battle in the Land and Environment Court has cost them close to $200,000 and, according to a freedom of information search conducted by the Rules, it has cost the council more than $100,000.

''If we keep getting hit and continue to not get support from the council then this hotel in its form will be no longer,'' Matthew said. ''For years we've been fighting and continually loaning money to defend ourselves. We just can't do it any more.''

Matthew describes a recently submitted development application for an improved hotel plan and refurbished restaurant as ''our last throw of the dice''.

The Annandale, built in the 1930s, became a live music venue in the early 1980s. It has hosted hundreds of artists including Jet, the Living End, the Dandy Warhols, the Hoodoo Gurus, and Sarah Blasko.

In 1998, new owners replaced the bands with poker machines. That was unsuccessful and when the Rule brothers bought the hotel in 2000, they reinstated live music and scaled back the number of pokies to nine.

''If the Annandale closed it wouldn't be the death of the live music scene but it would be something not too far off that,'' said Jono Graham, guitarist for Sydney band Made in Japan, who sold out their EP launch at the Annandale in February.

''For so many bands it has been a transition point from being an unknown to stepping onto a bigger stage. It's one of those monumental places that stands for all that bands are about: good music for cheap and a great venue with great sound.''

Leichhardt's Mayor, Jamie Parker, told the Herald the council is open to negotiating with the hotel on some regulations. ''But when it comes to things like fire safety and patron safety, we can't compromise on that.''


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Musos, fans harbour hope for the pub that rocked

Musos, fans harbour hope for the pub that rocked

October 3, 2009
Legendary launchpad ... singer-songwriters Darren Hanlon, Sarah Blasko and Jack Ladder were Hopetoun regulars. Industry insiders say the pub could be sold for about $3 million.

Legendary launchpad ... singer-songwriters Darren Hanlon, Sarah Blasko and Jack Ladder were Hopetoun regulars. Industry insiders say the pub could be sold for about $3 million. Photo: Edwina Pickles

THE music might have died at the Hopetoun this week but there's a good chance Sydney's rock lovers will witness a resurrection.

The iconic venue closed without warning on Monday, triggering a frenzy of speculation and an outpouring of protest and nostalgia from artists and fans.

The Herald revealed on Wednesday that the pub was being quietly shopped around for sale amid rumours of a split between the owners, prompting fears the pub might remain empty in a difficult market.

The Hopetoun Hotel, which has been a breeding ground for up and coming bands, has closed.

The Hopetoun Hotel, which has been a breeding ground for up and coming bands, has closed. Photo: Penny Stephens

But hotel industry insiders said interest in pubs was strong and there was reason to hope.

''There's a good opportunity for an owner-operator with a bit of equity to make a living out of that venue,'' said John Musca, a broker with Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. One of the owners, Evangelos Patakas, blamed recent fines from licensing police and a need to upgrade the building in accordance with council safety regulations.

According to the City of Sydney Council, a development application for the hotel approved last October did require the pub to make a number of safety upgrades. However, there was no strict deadline for these works that would have necessitated the abrupt closure. Mr Patakas was not available for comment yesterday.

Mr Musca said the pub could sell for about $3 million.

The sudden closure was a surprise to bands booked for shows, bar staff and operators of the upstairs restaurant, Rider.

Anna Sokol said she and her partner planned to reopen their Mexican kitchen, which held a month-to-month lease, somewhere else in Sydney next year.

The Hopetoun was popular with artists and fans. The venue gave all the door money to the musicians, and removed its last poker machine in April last year.

Around Sydney this week and online, people shared their favourite memories of the legendary venue.

The booking agent Adam Yee spotted a young Sarah Blasko there playing to a crowd of fewer than 20 people one Monday night.

The singer and songwriter Darren Hanlon was on call early in his career to fill empty slots at the venue, and once joined Blasko for a duet at a Pixies tribute night, while new favourites such as Jack Ladder and Dappled Cities were regulars at the pub that nurtured them.


Rock of Gibraltar: the legacy and the legend of the Hoey

Rock of Gibraltar: the legacy and the legend of the Hoey

October 3, 2009

I lost my virginity at the Hopetoun Hotel. The details remain sketchy, as with so many of my memories of the "Hoey", the legendary Surry Hills venue that closed this week. Predictably, its closure has prompted a wave of reminiscing. I've been having flashbacks of musical ecstasy.

And of another, fleshier ecstasy, courtesy of an enigmatic woman who, all those years ago, took pity on a new

romantic with poodle hair. Leading him into a quiet corner, unfazed by his pastel pants and pastel shirt, she ushered him onto a couch with broken springs. The Hopetoun was that sort of place.

"I know a lot of people have clapped and cheered in the Hopetoun," says Patience Hodgson, lead singer of the Grates. "I know there have been a lot of bands born out of the Hopetoun. And children, perhaps."

She's right about the bands. The Grates scored their recording contract thanks to a gig there.

For Aussie rock'n'rollers, getting a gig at the Hoey was a major milestone. And who hasn't played there? Its shaky stage and dodgy sound system were graced by Paul Kelly, Ed Kuepper, Kim Salmon, Crow, Died Pretty and the Clouds. The Hard-ons and the Celibate Rifles gave it their all; the Hoodoo Gurus played under the alias Dork Stick; and You Am I played as the Question Fruit.

On the corner of Bourke and Fitzroy, beer and music performed alchemy. Mick Thomas of Weddings Parties Anything supposedly wrote Step In, Step Out there.

With the Hoey gone, musos are mourning. Especially Dave McCormack, who has lost his second home.

"The first ever Custard gig in Sydney was there, back

in '91," says the veteran of 100 or more Hoey shows. "It was like a mecca for us. And there's that whole vibe when you walk in. There's no barrier between the band and the audience, so you can't have any rock star pretence. You can't just arrive on stage, you have to walk through the crowd. In a Venn diagram, it's all an intersection between band and audience."

No, the Hoey wasn't renowned for spoiling its acts. The rider was local beer and cheap wine. The light show was a rudimentary afterthought. There was no backstage for applying make-up, changing costumes or abusing substances.

Actually, it didn't spoil audiences either. The PA system was excellent - for feedback. The pillars and layout meant that only a few of the 150 or so punters could see or hear properly. The toilets had obviously been car-bombed. And don't even mention the lack of disabled access and security staff. (This, apparently, led to the $3000 in fines prompting the pub's owners to call time.)

And yet. And yet it was unarguably one of the most significant venues in the history of Sydney's live music, a tireless champion of the best upcoming acts, and some of the best big names too. "It's been like a Rock of Gibraltar of the Sydney music scene," McCormack says.

It was a venue run by music-lovers, for music-lovers. Sitting at a table near the back, co-owner Paul McCarthy would compare notes about singers and melodies with his bar staff, who were all musos. The pub's long-time booker, Pete Kelly, is in Decoder Ring. They were there because they love music.

The good news is that enough music-lovers - and madmen - still exist in this town to run venues. Live music isn't dead. In 2002, McCormack launched his first solo album at the Hopetoun; tonight he's launching his new one at the recently opened Notes in Newtown. The scene isn't shrinking; it's evolving. Still, there are danger signs.

"There are enough venues," says Adam Yee, a promoter who has found alternative venues for four artists he had booked into the Hoey in coming months. They include the CAD factory in Marrickville. "The problem is, as Newtown, Enmore and Surry Hills keep getting more gentrified, it's going to be all about noise complaints, so they'll polish a lot of places up. I think ultimately this will be a problem."

Suburbs are changing. In Surry Hills, rock chords and cymbal crashes are being drowned out by conversations about unpasteurised brie and property prices. The fear for the Hoey is that it will reopen as a soul-less beer barn, with polished floorboards, piped music and wall-to-wall pokies.

Venues are changing, too. Metro has a sponsorship and naming deal with Virgin Mobile. Last month the Oxford Art Factory put on a Veronicas gig presented by MasterCard. Meanwhile, a rash of illegal venues has opened.

"Most of the venues I can play as a musician in Sydney are illegal," wrote Kay Orchison in the Herald letters pages this week. "State and council regulations put too great a financial burden on venues for them to run small gigs. Now what are left are 'underground' venues that are unsanitary and unsafe. Bless them for existing but the toilets are awful, there are no easy street exits and no security. Sooner or later there will be a fire or a fight and people will die. Places such as the Hopetoun were safe enough without extra bouncers and sprinklers."

If every code and regulation were strictly enforced, most legal venues would probably be found wanting. And anyway, should these havens of artistic expression need to tick so many boxes? Venues need to be safe but they also need personality. A rock'n'roll joint needs to be, well, rock'n'roll.

Rock'n'roll is built on personality - and on myths. Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads. Keith Richards having transfusions of fresh blood in Switzerland. Major labels negotiating fair recording contracts.

The Hopetoun is a cultural sacred site. Let's pray it can be resurrected. Indeed, there's hope for the Hoey yet: a "Save the Hoey" blog has sprung up; email petitions are being organised; since Monday, 10,000 have joined the Facebook group, Save The Hopetoun Hotel.

If, on the other hand, the Hoey is gone for good, there's an upside - the Hoey's mythology would only swell. Truth and fiction would blur as the stories spread about legendary gigs, sizzling performances and seminal happenings.

Which is why I'm getting in early and putting it on the record that I was there the night Kurt Cobain stepped onto stage to play a demo of his new song Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was raw but powerful, as every one of the 30 or so punters in the room can attest, including Daniel Johns, Nick Cave and that mysterious stranger who led me downstairs. I think her name was Bjork.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Response from Clover Moore

I refer to your email about the closure of The Hopetoun Hotel.

The Hopetoun is an important part of the City’s live music scene. The City of Sydney is also disappointed by its closure.

The decision to close the Hopetoun was made by its management.

The City has worked with the Hopetoun in the past to ensure it meets it conditions of consent.
We have no outstanding concerns. Conditions of consent are put in place by consent authorities to ensure the benefits of a venue are balanced with patron safety, and to ensure a venue doesn’t adversely impact on residential amenity.

The City has been told that Police had concerns with the Hopetoun and recently issued a $3,000 penalty notice as it failed to provide adequate security staff.

The City is committed to creating a vibrant and diverse night-time economy where up and coming artists and musicians have an opportunity to thrive.

We are revitalising our forgotten laneways and encouraging small bars which can offer an alternative to large, high impact licensed premises and beer barns and create opportunities for musicians, artists and entrepreneur.

Yours sincerely
Clover Moore MP
Lord Mayor of Sydney

Pub rocked: is there hope left in the Hopetoun?

Pub rocked: is there hope left in the Hopetoun?

When good ships go down, most of us are left dumbfounded, stranded on the desert island of despair, powerless to do naught but shout “no!” as our once-cherished idol disappears into the drink.

The Hopetoun: End of an era? Picture: Rachel MoorThe Hopetoun: End of an era? Picture: Rachel Moor

Disciples of the boot would recall the sinking feeling as Matty John’s sordid sexual past was plastered over the papers. Ditto for fans of a certain yeast-based sandwich spread which now appears to be a sacred part of their cultural identity.

But for fans of homegrown independent music, this week’s Titanic disaster was the news that The Hopetoun Hotel, Sydney’s breeding ground for emerging rock talent, had hit a few icebergs and wouldn’t be opening for schooners any time soon. And if you read between the lines, that meant maybe not ever.

The reason put forward by the management was that in a seven day period the hotel had been fined some $3000 by local police for not having adequate security, and accompanied by building upgrades to meet council standards was enough to send the good ship Hopetoun asunder.

Punters were, in a word, devvo’d. Sure it’s no small chunk of change, but what are the management doing that a $3000 fine could sink such an iconic pub? And what are the government up to with licensing laws requiring bouncers to guard venues the size of broom closets?

Within nanoseconds the call rang out: “Save The Hoey”. Crikey, didn’t we just go through this trying to save FBi Radio? Do we really have to get bloody Richard Branson to bail us out of every cultural corner we paint ourselves into?

Jesus Sydney, man up you weak bastard!

The headline “Small pub goes bust in economic downturn” is hardly worth holding the front page for, but the desire to turn such an event into, “Pub closure sounds death-knell for Sydney live music scene” while entirely inflammatory, is worth a gentle prod.

You could argue that grungy 30-somethings that kept the Hoey afloat in its heyday are all starting to grow up, plop out puppies, move to the burbs and just don’t have time to support local bands anymore. You’d hardly hold that against them.

You could also argue that the next generation perhaps aren’t that fussed with pub rock anymore, and would much rather get dolled up and head to unmistakably more “now” locales. That too is hardly a crime.

But Mark Gerber, owner of one such trendy venue, The Oxford Arts Factory, offered a somewhat more realistic reason its failure on Triple J’s Hack, about moving with the times and being more realistic about the scale of the industry.

“Live music doesn’t really pay, we all know that. You need to diversify and look for other ways to make an income during the early part of the week when there’s not that much live music happening. You can’t survive on seven nights a week of live music in Australia, we don’t have the population”.

Maybe Seymour Skinner was right. The times they are a’becoming quite different, and old habits don’t just die hard, they die off.

The question of course is, what’s it going to take to save this sucker? Bankrolling? Pokies? Trivia? Mid-week bar mitzvahs? Opening an uglier, flashier version next door called iHopetoun2.0, galvanising opinion and sending outraged punters flooding loyally back to old faithful?

Whatever crafty measures, something needs to be done, as there’s plenty about this rub-a-dub worth fighting for.

The Hopetoun is much more than just a pub. It’s a small but important cog in a wheel that’s in all our best interests to keep turning, if we don’t want our musical choices dictated to us by Australian Idol dimwits.

For years The Hopetoun has been crucial for emerging artists looking to gain their first steps in the biz. It’s is an attractive yet attainable goal. If you could make a dent at the Hoey, it didn’t necessarily mean you’d made it, but it did mean you were probably onto something and should keep slogging away.

But also, The Hopetoun is one of those pubs that people feel a proper bond with. For those who’ve wandered through its doors, grabbed an earful of music and a skinful of booze, the feeling of loss is somewhat akin to losing a cherished grandpa - the cool one that swore and drank, gave you your first ciggie and told you to harden the f—- up.

And while getting all sentimental over a stupid old battlecruiser might seem somewhat immature, to echo the words of Daryl John Kerrigan in The Castle, fighting to explain the true value of his endangered property, “It’s not a house, it’s a home. You can’t buy what I’ve got”.

The Hoey is that crappy little castle at 3 Highview Cres Coolaroo, and anyone who’s bought a beer there is a card carrying Kerrigan. It’s not overly beautiful and it doesn’t smell all that great. It’s hardly a native title claim, but it’s got something that I want to give myself an uppercut for saying but I’m going to say anyway – heart and bloody soul – which is thin on the ground these days and doesn’t deserve to be banished to the posterity of the pool room for all eternity.

And it would be fortuitous to enlist the talents of someone slightly above the buffoonery of Dennis Denuto to make sure this Sydney landmark doesn’t become just another place to piss away your weekly wage into yet another banal bank of mindless fruit machines.

Save the Hoey. Spread it.

Save The Hopetoun Facebook group.
Save The Hoey on Twitter

Audio (MP3): Triple J Hack Hopetoun broadcast