Thus, last week long-running Melbourne live music venue The Tote was forced to close its doors - going out with one hell of a bang - because running the pub was no longer viable in light of the increased liquor licensing and security costs which came with its farcical 'high risk' status.
I've been drinking at The Tote since 1990, and not once in 20 years have I ever seen a fight there. I have, however, seen some truly kick-arse bands; several of whom performed at The Tote last Monday, its closing night.
The Meanies played a brilliant, blinding set that made me feel 15 years younger; Spiderbait stepped in as a two piece at the last minute, replacing The Cosmic Psychos; and Joel Silbersher (formerly of precocious young punks GOD) joined The Drones to rip out a blistering version of Australian underground rock classic 'My Pal' as the last song of the night.
The sad, frustrating and infuriating thing about all this is that The Tote should never had had to close. The Victorian state government has rushed a flawed piece of legislation into place in order to be seen to be doing something about alcohol-related violence - just as they rushed a fatally flawed '2am lockout' policy into ill-fated action in 2008.
As I wrote in a recent article for Arts Hub:
The recent changes to the liquor licensing structure are based on a July 2009 report prepared by the Allen Consulting Group called Alcohol-related harm and the operation of licensed premises, which is freely available online as a PDF.
The report identifies the following risk factors that are likely to cause alcohol-related harm at licensed premises:
• Late opening hours;
• Patron intoxication;
• Hotel gaming; and
• Combination of late opening hours with patron intoxication.
The study’s great flaw, however – one that is repeatedly acknowledged in the report – is that its data is incomplete, specifically where different types of venues are concerned.
In compiling the study, its author/s were not able to differentiate in a substantial way between any one Victorian venue providing music entertainment (either live or recorded) and another:
Page 33 of the report reads, in part:
“It is understood that most gaming, adult entertainment and karaoke venues are identified in the data set, and therefore adequately captured by the relevant venue type categories. However, many live and recorded entertainment venues in the data are not captured by the relevant venue type category. Given this fact, results for the live and/or recorded music category should be interpreted with caution.”
Elsewhere, on page 45, the report states:
“Note that the findings for licensees with live and recorded entertainment should be interpreted with a high degree of caution. It is understood that the unknown group of venues, which includes 2,094 licensed premises, most likely includes many venues with live and/or recorded entertainment...”
“In particular, live and recorded entertainment represents 462 licensed premises in the data set. However, it is understood that there are far more venues across Victoria that have live and/or recorded entertainment. Therefore, the unknown group of venues must contain many venues that have live and/or recorded entertainment...”
“Given the data limitations, the risk associated with live and recorded entertainment is assumed to be captured by the late opening hours risk factor for the remainder of this analysis.”
In other words, the report only assumes – it definitely does not prove – that live music venues possess the same ‘high risk’ as other late night venues studied by the report such as bars and gaming venues.
(And I should thank David Blumenstein for pointing me in the direction of this section of the report!)
The only good news from all this drama and government-caused stupidity is that the huge public outcry over the closure of The Tote - which included over 2000 protesting in the street on its second-last day of trading, and hundreds of phone calls and emails to ALP politicians in once-safe but now marginal inner city seats - is that the government are panicking, and trying to rectify the situation. That it should never have happened in the first place, however, I'm sure will be remembered come the state election in November this year...
And on a brighter note...
As I said, The Tote aside, I've seen some fantastic gigs over the last couple of weeks. I'll cheat and include a great set by The Veils at The Toff in Town late last year, since I've been rather tardy in updating this blog over the last few months.
More recently, on Saturday night I caught Glasgow's Camera Obscura at The Corner Hotel, and then last night I sung and danced and swayed along to the piratical indie folk-rock of Portland's The Decemberists at Billboard. Great gigs all. Here's a taste of what you missed thanks to the magic of You Tube.