Sooki Lounge Owners: Public Liability In Live Music Venues 'Killing Us All'

30 January 2024 | 8:51 am | Mary Varvaris

“This year, our premium went from $50000 to $60000 (including finance as we can’t pay the policy outright), and this is considered a WIN.”

Sooki Lounge

Sooki Lounge (Source: Supplied)

Victorian live music venue, restaurant and club Sooki Lounge owners Steve and Sue have shared a transparent post on Facebook about public liability insurance.

A type of cover for businesses that have an abundance of face-to-face customers, public liability insurance is designed to cover personal injury or damages to property if owners of a property are found to be negligent. Sooki Lounge, like all music venues, has a “duty of care” to ensure that members of the public are safe and don’t destroy the property.

In a statement called “Post your public liability,” owners Steve and Sue wrote, “We have been holding this pretty close to our chest over the past couple of years but feel that now is the time to be open and transparent regarding the issue of Public Liability in the live music scene. To put it bluntly and bleakly, it is killing us all.”

The pair claimed that in one year, their insurance had leapt up from $12,000 to $50,000 “with no previous claims over 10 years of operation.” They then stated the things they do regarding risk management, such as hiring extra security guards when it isn’t required, using plastic cups and security scanners on a busy night, and hiring additional staff to ensure the floor is safe and not slippery.

“10 years ago, there were 8 insurers internationally willing to insure a venue such as ours,” they wrote. “Over the years, that has dwindled quickly down to 1. Last year, we did not have insurance for under a month as we could not get it, meaning it was our house, essentially, up for grabs if something went wrong.”

On a good week, the Sooki Lounge can “break even”. “While we are working on many exciting paths to re-energize the venue that we truly and energetically believe in, for all Live Music Venues, it is ‘backs to the wall’,” the statement continued. “This year, our premium went from $50000 to $60000 (including finance as we can’t pay the policy outright), and this is considered a WIN.”

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Steve and Sue urged fellow venue owners and festival promoters to post their public liability, “Live music venues are like the rivers in our live music sector,” they wrote. “If the river is not healthy nor are the artists, sound techs, promoters and the rest of the live music ecosystem.”

Like many in the Australian music industry, Steve and Sue are searching for a solution, hoping that transparency only helps.

“We were brought up to believe that if the private sector could not cover certain sections of our community and society, then Government would,” they wrote.

“What does this mean? The Federal/State Government to underwrite the industry at a PROFIT. Thank you for reading this; much love, Steve and Sue.”

Last June, James Young, the owner of Melbourne venues Cherry Bar and Yah Yah’s, discussed a 500% increase in insurance premiums for the spaces he runs.

Andrew Bassingthwaighte, from the Australian Live Music Business Council, informed A Current Affair that other venues are paying insurance over $10,000 for their premiums, with others shelling out "up to $160,000". 

Due to the price hikes, Bassingthwaighte stated that up to 400 music venues in Victoria could close their doors for good.