Music At The Railway Is BACK


Last night the Brunswick Blues Shooters played at the Railway Hotel at 800 Nicholson St North Fitzroy (near the old railway line that isn't there anymore).

It has been around 21 months since there has been live music at night at the Railway - it was brought to a horrible stop in Sep 2009 when license conditions saying the pub had to employ security guards when music played were enforced.

This was a peaceful pub with a peaceful crowd who enjoyed listening to blues and roots while having a meal and a chat, and maybe having a dance. Music ran on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The Brunswick Blues Shooters had a residency on Thursday nights, so have lost around 80 gigs due to the licensing madness.

And now the Railway's licence has been fixed! The supposed 24 hr turnaround licence-fixing process only took several months, but it has happened.

A really nice thing about music at the Railway is that you can stand right next to the musicians if you want to, and watch them playing close-up. The steel guitar, for example, or the double bass - both part of the Brunswick Blues Shooters line-up.

So maybe drop in at the Railway on a Thursday night and have a drink and a meal and listen to some music. The food is traditional family Italian cooking, and it's great.

Cheers - Robin

Live Music Forum And Corrections

Tomorrow night Thursday May 6, Yarra Council are hosting a public forum The Future of Live Music at Fitzroy Town Hall, 6 - 8pm. You might like to go!

Here's what they say…

In response to the challenges facing live music venues, the City Of Yarra is hosting an open forum to discuss the issues facing Yarra’s vibrant live music community. The panel will feature a cross section of the music community including community radio, Fair Go 4 Live Music and Contemporary Music Victoria. Discussion will be moderated by Victoria Marles. Make your voice heard and help find a way forward to keep live music in Yarra rocking into the future.

WHEN: Thursday 6 May 2010, 6.00pm – 8.00pm
WHERE: Reading Room, Fitzroy Town Hall, 201 Napier Street, Fitzroy
CHAIR: Victoria Marles – CEO, Trust for Nature (former Legal Services Commissioner and former Chair of Circus Oz)

Adrian Basso – Community Radio (PBS)
Zvi Belling – Public Opinion Afro Orchestra
Cr Jane Garrett – Mayor, Yarra City Council
Liam Matthew – The Old Bar
Tim Northeast – Corner Hotel
Jon Perring – Fair Go 4 Live Music
Bruce Phillips – Director City Development, Yarra City Council
Kirsty Rivers – Music Victoria

Calendar event, May 6

Page corrections
I want to let you know about some corrections to information on this website. I've corrected two pages: Cafes and restaurants in the Licences section, and the Liquor licence fees page.

I make small corrections quite often, but these changes are fairly major, so if you have looked at these pages recently, you might want to check them out again.

If I have difficulty getting it right, I do wonder how owners of small hospitality businesses, who come from a broad range of backgrounds, are supposed to make sense of the maze of confusing information provided by the Government.

Sue MacLellan
Just letting you know there has been no public mention of any change to Liquor Licensing personnel… yet.

Cheers ~ Robin

Funniest. Speech. Ever.

I’m not sure whether it's comedy or tragedy, but either way you MUST read about the speech made by the ALP's Matt Viney, in Parliament.

We got the lowdown on how he knows there are problems at live music venues, because FORTY YEARS AGO he went to a Spectrum concert and saw—nudge, nudge—people passing around a BIG CIGARETTE! For more about the speech, plus the speech itself, look here: Matt Viney's petition speech.

Then there's the Best Speech Ever, given by Greens MLC Sue Pennicuik after she presented the Live Music Petition to Parliament. Look here: Petition speech by Sue Pennicuik. Sue's onto it.

In fact I've created a whole new section on the Greens on this website, find it here: The Greens.

The FairGo4Live Music petition was handed to Parliament recently, hence the above speeches. I’ve done a page about it: Live music petition

Roll-back continues (slowly)
Last Friday we had the very good news The Lomond Hotel in East Brunswick had its "high risk" conditions more-or-less rolled back. They still have to provide security guards if there is "entertainment" after 12.30am, but that's not a problem because their music is over by then.

But what is "entertainment" supposed to mean, and are other venues going to have "music" changed to "entertainment" on their licence conditions?

What about stand-up comics, or maybe mime artists… will these be requiring security guards in the near future?

Maybe as well as S.L.A.M. we'll be seeing some new groups joining the campaign, like…

S.L.A.C. Save Live Australian Comedy
S.L.A.T.N. Save Live Australian Trivia Nights
S.L.A.P.R. Save Live Australian Poetry Readings
S.L.A.M.A. Save Live Australian Mime Artists

I'll stop right here, and hopefully this is just a little rant and common sense will prevail.

Kate's article
In a busy week for the campaign, there was also Kate Shaw's article published in The Age, 15/4. It's well worth a read—find it here: Music venues still threatened as Tote lesson not learnt

Cheers ~ Robin

The Tote LIVES

So it wasn't all in vain (the Tote protest above).

This afternoon at around 2pm it was announced the Tote will re-open in 6 weeks.

The new owners, Andrew Portokallis and Jon Perring, will still be subject to the same draconian licence conditions as the former owner, Bruce Milne, but intend to apply to have these removed when they take over—a luxury only possible after the efforts of numerous music negotiators and of all the people who attended the Tote rally and the SLAM rally.

It should be noted that a few venues have already applied to have these conditions removed, but Liquor Licensing is bogging their applications down in unrelated red tape, and none of them have been successful yet.

Also, that the "guilty until proven innocent" licence conditions are still on licenses at all, with the onus on the licensee to act to remove them, says a lot about the inaction of John Brumby and his Government.

But it's good news! And bands will be back. More soon.

Cheerily yours - Robin

Last St Pat's Fest At Dan O'Connell

Dan oconnell hotel

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day, and like the past 100 years, there will be celebrations at Carlton's Dan O'Connell Hotel, which is known for its Celtic and folk music. Thousands of people come each year to party in the park next to the pub, and the event has the support of police, residents and the Melbourne City Council.

However this year's may be the last, because Liquor Licensing Director Sue MacLellan will only give the event a 10pm liquor licence rather than the usual 1am licence, which makes it financially unviable. Worse, without income from this annual event the hotel business will not be as healthy as it was, apparently… see the Dan’s pages for more on this.

The Hotel’s manager Toby Kingsley says "Crowd behaviour has been exemplary in the past" and that "the director of liquor licensing has insisted on maintaining a draconian approach to live music venues while many violent inner-city nightclubs continue to trade unabated".

Read about this in Last St Patrick's at Dan O'Connell (The Age 4/3) and on the Dan's website: The last ever St Pat’s Day?

You may wish to join Facebook group Save St Patrick's Day at the Dan O'Connell.

And come along to St Pat's at the Dan! But be early… it finishes at 10 o'clock.

~ Robin

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

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

The Tote Closes

The Tote Collingwood
So today the publican at The Tote announces The Tote is closing. He says the liquor license conditions make it impossible to keep going.

Apparently the State Government believes that the MUSIC at The Tote could cause the type of violence found at CBD nightclubs, because the draconian conditions on The Tote’s license only come into effect if there is live music. What a joke.

Here’s the press release from Bruce Milne, publican:

It’s last drinks at the Tote. This weekend.
I know it’s sudden. I didn’t plan it to be like that.
I can’t afford to keep fighting Liquor Licensing. The “high risk” conditions they have placed on the Tote’s license make it impossible to trade profitably. I can’t afford the new “high risk” fees they have imposed. I can’t afford to keep fighting them at VCAT. I can’t renegotiate a lease in this environment.
So, come into the Tote this weekend to say farewell to the sad staff and to feel the sticky carpet for the last time.
I don’t believe the Tote is a “high risk” venue, in the same category as the nightclubs that make the news for all the wrong reasons. Despite being on a rough little corner of Collingwood, the Tote has had very, very few incidents. As a local police officer once said, “The Tote’s the quietest pub in the area.” (!).
It’s not dumb luck that the Tote has escaped serious violence. I believe the business has been run responsibly. People don’t come to the Tote to fight. They come because they have a passion for music and love to be in an historic venue that reeks of that same passion.
The Tote is (sorry, was) an important cornerstone of Melbourne’s rich and diverse music community. It’s too late to save the Tote but not too late to try and save other inner city venues that are feeling the same pressures.
I know the sudden closure affects a lot of people. Most importantly, the hard-working staff that are being forced onto the dole queue. And the bands and artists that have had their gigs pulled from under them.
Anyway, I don’t want to get maudlin (or viciously angry). The era of the Tote is over. If you love the place, come and have a beer with us this weekend.

Bruce Milne

So The Tote is seen as a “high risk” venue. Funny, I felt totally safe at the Tote… I think because it had music. Would I go into one of those yucko pubs on a corner somewhere, those ones with no music? Naah - I wouldn’t feel safe.

~ Robin