Monday, January 18, 2010

Another one bites the dust

The latest ‘victim’ in this town’s misdirected attempt to combat anti-social behaviour is an iconic Melbourne pub out Collingwood way, The Tote. Once just one of hundreds of venues around the city and suburbs providing a platform for aspiring musos and bands, in recent times The Tote has stood almost alone in its support of emerging talent.

It is being forced out of business because it serves alcohol. Shock. Horror. Think of the children.

The legislators in this town think that, because a massive soul-less concrete bunker that can accommodate five thousand party people at a time can’t seem to control the few mindless idiots who can’t handle their drink (and their drugs) that every single other venue that also serves alcohol should pay the price, too.

We need more police to clean up the mess created by a few. We need money to train and pay them. We will use the venue licence fee to do this. The licence fee is not enough to do this. We will make the licence fee higher and higher until the totals match. Problem solved.

Such a simplistic view would be laughable if it weren’t so real. Changes to the Liquor Licensing laws meant that even the smallest, safest venues with a late liquor license had to do things like;

• Install CCTV equipment
• Hire a minimum of 2 security 30 minutes before and until 30 minutes after live entertainment
• Cop an increase in License Fee of up to 500%

For a venue like The Tote which provided a free night each week to give up-and-coming bands a chance, an increase in running costs is pretty difficult to absorb. You can’t just hope that your patronage magically quadruples and those patrons also pay double for all their drinks – you just have to cop it, or close down. Sadly for the Tote, the latter was the only sound business decision.

I don’t get out to pubs to see bands as much as I did when I was young and untethered but I remember the feel and the vibe and the sense of community that watching a future rock band get their start and in later years saying ‘I knew them before they were big!’ every town needs these places so that we have something other than a TAB/SportsBar/soul-less booze cavern to spend some time and money in.

Hopefully common sense will prevail before the powers-that-be wake up and realise that the solution is in the hands of the venue operators. Don’t let the dickheads in and, if they do sneak in with the humans, cut them off before they cause trouble. But don’t force the good operators to pay for the greed of the others.

Prof. Pilsner

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