Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar's Crowdfunding Campaign Saves The Tote

7 September 2023 | 9:02 am | Mary Varvaris

Before today’s announcement, we last heard The Tote's new owners in early August, when they told supporters that “things are certainly moving forward ... but we have to get through this process before we can share any more news”.

Shane Hilton & Leanne Chance

Shane Hilton & Leanne Chance (Credit: Gareth Harrison)

Shane Hilton and Leanne Chance, the owners of The Last Chance Rock And Roll Bar in Melbourne’s CBD, have officially secured the purchase of The Tote.

The massive win for Melbourne’s music community arrives after thousands of music fans put their money towards Hilton and Chance’s Pozible fundraising campaign, raising over $3 million. At the same time, the Last Chance owners raised the other half by hustling and found themselves in a “shit load of debt to banks, family and using our own meagre savings”.

“It's Official, together we've secured the purchase of the Tote!” a new announcement on the Pozible campaign page reads. Hilton and Chance haven’t only purchased The Tote in Collingwood but started a foundation to ensure its future security as a live music venue.

The new owners didn’t reveal the total sale price, but the Sydney Morning Herald reported that all parties are “comfortable with where the deal has landed”. Hilton and Chance will receive the keys in November, and all staff will remain on board.

A free gig will be held in celebration at The Tote on Friday night (8 September).

UPDATE at 2 PM on Thursday, 7 September: Shane Hilton and Leanne Chance issue an official statement

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“Thanks to the astronomical support of the wider music community – which lead to the world's biggest music-based crowdfunding campaign – the Tote will survive as a live music venue forever,” Hilton and Chance said in a joint statement.

“We're in awe of what the Melbourne and Australian music community has achieved over the last six months. This huge undertaking would never have happened without the support of the tens of thousands of people who passionately got behind what seemed to be an impossible task. It’s thanks to you we’re able to keep the Tote doing exactly what it's been doing for the last 42 years.”

The couple went on to thank everyone who contributed to saving The Tote, whether it was through the Pozible campaign or by playing shows or sharing the campaign on social media. “We can't express the gratitude or esteem we have for the entire community who made this happen,” they said. “It's a historic achievement that would never have transpired without every person's energy, enthusiasm, and commitment.”

For Hilton and Chance, securing the purchase of The Tote has always been about community.

“This result is the most beautiful example of what music, our music community, can achieve,” they said.

“This cultural institution and beating heart of the Australian music space would not exist without the incredible work and endurance of Jon, Sam and Andy, and the owners who built the venue up before them. We'd like to thank Jon and Sam for entrusting us with the Tote, and for giving us the blessing to lead it into its future.”

Hilton and Chance’s statement went on to acknowledge the last three and a half years – “the toughest our industry has ever faced” – and keeping the flame burning at The Tote over the last eleven years, calling the effort “no small feat”. The pair wished Jon and Sam continued success at their present venue, Bar Open, and “look forward to working with them to ensure a smooth transition into a new era at The Tote” for staff, bands, and attendees.

They continued, “There has been a lot of concern, fear and emotion swirling around The Tote sale. What is needed now is for the community to now get behind the venue and its staff to ensure The Tote’s ongoing success.

“The Last Chance To Save The Tote campaign wasn’t just about protecting the walls, but everything that happens within them. To be able to continue that means the absolute world to us.”

Thanking the bands who make The Tote the space that it is, Hilton and Chance called themselves “the new custodians of the Tote” and assured bands and punters alike that “our sole aim is to facilitate a space in which all the amazing art that people create can be nurtured, supported and celebrated.

“We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone - whether it be the staff, punters, bands, record labels, promoters, bookers, community radio stations or venue management who have made the Tote such an incredible place over the last 42 years,” they said. “We look forward to working with the present staff to make the Tote the best live music venue in the world while continuing to support all the amazing musicians who will continue to contribute to the amazing legacy of the Tote.”

The statement concluded, “As it's unlikely we are ever going to have the platform and reach we have right now, we want to take a moment to encourage the wider community, the media, government, industry stakeholders and every other person in Australia to truly start listening to and supporting the world-class talent and culture that the independent music community in Australia continues to produce, in spite of all the difficulties we face. Go to the shows, buy the albums, wear the t-shirts and listen to C.O.F.F.I.N.”

In early May, Hilton and Chance hit their fundraising goal to save The Tote. However, the fight wasn’t over, as The Tote's current owners took to social media to congratulate Last Chance on their campaign but reiterated that the asking price was $6.65 million and would remain on the market until "an agreement can be reached". 

Both The Tote and Last Chance have hosted numerous punk, rock, metal, and alternative acts like The White Stripes, Mudhoney, Violent Soho, Courtney Barnett, You Am I, Press Club, and Porpoise Spit at their venues; they’re essential grounds for up-and-coming artists to find their sounds. 

Hilton and Chance took over The Last Chance Rock And Roll Bar in 2016. They promise to protect The Tote by “putting the building in trust with so much red tape, caveats and legal protection that it can never be anything but a live music venue, let alone sold ever again.” 

The couple aims to give “the Tote to the bands of Melbourne forever. No fuckers gunna touch one of those posters on that tobacco-stained ceiling.”

The current owners of The Tote, Sam Crupi and Jon Perring, announced they were putting the venue up for sale in March.

Before today’s announcement, we last heard from Hilton and Chance in early August, when they revealed to supporters that “things are certainly moving forward ... but we have to get through this process before we can share any more news”.

Hilton told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and Chance are happy to take a lease on The Tote, have a caretaker role for the iconic music venue, and “leave it for the next generation”.