Know Your Info

With the rally in the city tomorrow, see SLAM rally, I am a bit worried that many people connected with music still don't understand the issues. So when a long email arrived from the small venues site last night, I decided to put the whole thing, with a few edits, into a blog post today. Here it is…

There exists a high risk licence condition, beginning "when live or recorded amplified music other than background music is provided:" and followed by a variety of requirements including the employment of a minimum two crowd controllers, along with staff training, cameras and signs.

This condition originally appeared in 1998 when it was applied to 3 troublesome premises in Frankston. At the time, the only thing in common among those three places that they could find was the provision of live or recorded amplified music, which is why the condition was worded that way.

The condition became a standard high risk condition, applied to licences of premises on a case by case basis, when there were incidents of trouble.

In 2002, the then Director of Liquor Licensing began a policy of applying the condition to all new late licences, and also of applying it "retrospectively", or in other words, applying it to existing late licenses as a precautionary measure. In this context, a late licence is one that allows sale of liquor after 1am.

The current Director of Liquor Licensing has continued the process of applying the condition as a precautionary measure. Numerous licences have had the condition newly imposed on them as recently as 2009.

In the process of changing the licence, licensees have been told:

"It is the Director's policy to endorse these conditions on a liquor licence where:
live or recorded amplified music other than background music is provided; and trading hours endorsed on a licence extend beyond 1 am."


"These conditions......are designed to reduce the potential for the conduct of the venue to have an unacceptable impact on the amenity of the surrounding area and to minimise the occurrence of anti-social behaviour in and around the licensed premises."

Unfortunately, the imposition of these conditions all too often has an unacceptable impact on the expenses of the premises. If a premises hosts one three hour music event per week, then it faces a cost of $12000 to $16000 per year (based on a $30 to $40 per hour rate per crowd controller, who must be there extra half hour before and after gig). If there are four gigs per week, then $48000 - $64000 per year. etcetera.

S.L.A.M. and FG4LM want music to be de-linked from security conditions. While it is acknowledged that security is a necessity in many situations in contemporary society, it is demanded that other criteria be used to determine how security is applied to licensed premises.

Current situation
The Age reported on 21 January 2010, that:

"A spokeswoman for Ms MacLellan said, apart from higher fees, requirements on live music venues had not changed since 1999. But many of those conditions, such as minimum security levels, were being properly enforced for the first time."

When it was pointed out to Ms MacLellan that, in numerous individual cases, requirements had in fact changed, she replied:

"The quote in the Age is of course truncated from what was said. What was said was if the conditions were imposed then they are the same conditions as those put on in 1999 i.e. security, cameras, RSA training and notices. The option such as done with the (example)..... is to deal with other issues on a case by case basis."

The Liquor Licensing statement implying that there have been no changes other than proper enforcement continues to be presented in the press.

Further spin includes that "the campaign has been scaled back as it looks like some of the issues are being resolved." and that the rally is "not a protest, it's a celebration of live music". Neither of these is correct.

License conditions
Below is the full wording of the licence condition in question:

When live or recorded amplified music other than background music is provided:
  • The licensee shall install and maintain a surveillance recording system able to clearly identify individuals, which shows time and date and provides continuous images of all entrances and exits, bars and entertainment/dance floor areas. The surveillance recording system must operate from 30 minutes before the start of the entertainment being provided, until 30 minutes after closure. A copy of the recorded images must be available upon request for immediate viewing or removal by the Victoria Police, or a person authorised in writing by the Director of Liquor Licensing, or otherwise retained for at least one month. The position of the cameras will be to the satisfaction of the Licensing Inspector.
  • Signs, as described below, are to be displayed in all areas subject to camera surveillance. Such signs shall read: "For the safety and security of patrons and staff this area is under electronic surveillance".
  • All staff engaged in the serving of Liquor will complete a "Responsible Serving of Alcohol" training course, approved by the Director of Liquor Licensing within 2 months of this condition being imposed, or of commencing employment.
  • Crowd controllers, licensed under the Private Security Act, are to be employed at a ratio of 2 crowd controllers for the first 100 patrons and 1 crowd controller for each additional 100 patrons or part thereof. One crowd controller is to be present outside the premises to monitor patrons arriving at and departing from the premises. Crowd controllers are to be present from 30 minutes before the start of the entertainment being provided, until 30 minutes after closure.

Thanks for your work, small venues - and I just want to add the point that if a premises has these conditions, they operate at all times, not just late at night.

See you at the rally

~ Robin

Nightclub Violence And A Big Lunch

I want to mention this article, which is about some nightclub violence last weekend - 'Coward act': teen left with permanent scarring after nightclub glassing

I see the 19 year-old victim is from Mornington, which is a very long way from the club in inner-Melbourne South Melbourne.

I'd like to make the point that the kids in the outer suburbs and beyond don't have many places to go these days, because the suburban and outer-suburban venues have mostly been taken over by gaming.

Also, the current liquor licensing is going to make it progressively harder to find a safe place for a night out, because the small, safe venues who have consistently put culture ahead of mega-dollars, and so have a narrow profit margin, will not be able to survive the draconian conditions, fees and fines (word is that venues are being fined harshly for something like a security guard not filling his time sheet in properly).

See this article in yesterday's Age: Cultural events hard hit by bureaucratic regulations

And meanwhile, the big clubs march on.

The Big Lunch
I call on the Government to address two things at tomorrow's Big Lunch (amongst all the other things):

1. Music venues in inner, middle and outer suburbs, and the country, be actively supported so kids don't all head straight into the city and into dangerous clubs and surrounding streets.

2. Remove the draconian liquor license fee increase a venue cops if they have a single infringement, such as a noise fine, the year before. I have updated my Fees page with information on this. We all know a noise fine can come from a single ridiculous complaint, with no opportunity to challenge it… while I'm at it, fix this too.

I don't know what will be on the menu at The Big Lunch, but I suspect if I was attending I would not feel like eating.


License Fee Hikes

I've aded a new page today about changes to liquor licence fees. Information is starting to come out, now that the fees have been in place for about 3 weeks.

This is a much wider issue than music venues, but I do think the new structure shows the utter incompetence of the State Government and Liquor Licensing, and THAT is relevant to music venues, at the moment.

Here's the new page: Fees. I've also added more fallout to the Fallout page, and links to the Links page.

By now you probably know that Chris Morris the owner of the Tote building is in talks to keep it running—there's a Chris Morris Rocks Facebook fan page!

Chris on the Tote:
"It has a huge reputation in Melbourne and it's just been fascinating seeing all the commentary and the reaction of people and the Facebook sites and everything else.
"Therefore we have no desire for it to close down and we just hope it can continue in its current form and we're pretty confident that will happen."

Well good!

Hope this flows on to all the other music venues affected.

Cheers - Robin