Venues: Latest Images, New Owners, Council Clashes & Bust-Ups!

1 March 2024 | 2:04 pm | Christie Eliezer

Here is all of this week's news from music venues across Australia.

Aura Hotel artist impression

Aura Hotel artist impression (Source: Supplied)

First Image! Sunshine Coast $45m Live Venue

The Comiskey Group unveiled an image of its $45 million Aura Hotel, which will include the Sunshine Coast’s largest music venue when it opens in early 2026. 

First announced in 2022, it will be located in Australia’s largest master-planned community, Stockland Aura, 10 minutes from Caloundra. The 2,500-capacity bandroom will showcase A-listers as well as emerging acts.

Comiskey runs the larger Eatons Hill Hotel and Sandstone Point Hotel. It recently received development approval for a holiday resort in Coochin Creek, alongside the 150-hectare festival site Coochin Fields on the Sunshine Coast.

“We’ve had artists from Prince to Post Malone play at our venues, every genre, for every demographic,” said director Rob Comiskey. “Aura Hotel will also see a revolving door of talent, bringing big acts closer to home for those residing on the coast. 

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“We are already thinking about the live music experience, meticulously planning the design of the live band room and world-class production. Capable of hosting 2,500 fans, the experience will be both epic and intimate.”

The Stockland development, with a Mediterranean aesthetic, backs onto a 5-hectare parkland. The hotel includes internal and alfresco dining areas, six bars across 3 levels, a gaming room and multiple function spaces.

Live Music Thrives As Venues Change Hands

Live music acts are the winners as more venues welcome new owners aboard.

Flamingo’s Nightclub in Rockhampton, Qld, will make live music a regular occurrence after it reopens at Easter. Its general manager, Jamie Boon, runs Maroon Events with Jeremy Marou of Busby Marou and is keen to bring the Quay St establishment back to its golden days.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it drew bands like Midnight Oil and INXS with names such as Pink Duck, Republik and Stadium.

Boon and Alex Myers also pull co-manager duties at The Heritage Hotel next door, which Flamingo’s new owners bought around the same time for $4.2 million. It was also a live music venue, and is expected to follow the tradition.

Live music is also on offer when The Rose & Crown opens in Brisbane’s South Bank this month, its new owner Alex Derrick confirmed. The London-inspired gastro-pub is in front of South Bank station, a boon for music patrons.

In Melbourne, where pubs are currently returning yields of around 5 per cent, more live music-hosting places are on the trading block.

These include Harlow in Cremorne’s Church Street (once known as the Great Britain Hotel or the GB and a popular live music space), Oddfellows on Little Lonsdale Street in the city, and The Coppersmith in South Melbourne.

Mango’s in Hobart, and its 3 am licence, which went on the market in early summer, is still awaiting a new owner, its agent confirmed to this week.

Neil Wedd Exiting Thornbury Theatre

Neil Wedd announced this week he has quit after 14 years as booker and promoter of the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne. The 1920s picture theatre was transformed into a premier live music and performance art space.

Wedd ran The Old Greek Theatre, Prince of Wales, The Metro and Billboard, as well as managing artists and working at Big Day Out.

“The happiness of bands and event goers is the thing that keeps me going in over 40 years of promoting,” he posted, saying he’s looking at new adventures.

Crowd Funding #1: Stockton Bowling Club To Save Live Music

The Stockton Bowling Club in Newcastle started a crowd-funding campaign to raise $115,000 so it can continue to host live music.

Following a sole complaint from a neighbour, City of Newcastle told the club In November 2023,  “outdoor live music is required to cease immediately” until it got development consent, at a cost of $25,000.

Club chair Raeline Darwin said the plan to be provided to the council could end up costing “between $100,000 and $110,000” in actual construction to comply with the requirements.

Crowd Funding #2: New Target For Vineyard

The crowd-funding campaign for The Vineyard in Melbourne’s St. Kilda this week set a new target figure after reaching the original.

As reported in, the venue is threatened with eviction by the local council after a three-year long legal stoush that started with a default notice over a promised redevelopment.

Adelaide Holding Roundtable Over Venue Crisis…

With music venues falling like dominoes, Adelaide City Council agreed to hold a roundtable with operators, associations and other stakeholders. "That's where you start to understand some of the challenges," said Cr. Arman Abrahimzadeh, who tabled the motion.

The feedback would give the Council an idea of where it could allocate monies for its 2024/5 budget, to reignite the night time economy and the Hindley Street precinct.

Abrahimzadeh said Council had in the past discussed the idea of a night time economy but it had been rejected because “Council had responsibilities to both day and night traders”.

Responding to the idea of a summit, West End advocate lawyer, Tony Tropeano, told ABC Radio that the discussion had to include a number of precincts, not just Hindley Street, and Council “come to the table with clean hands and make sure whatever is suggested and put forward” be discussed with all stakeholders rather than just making a decision on its own.

…While Port Adelaide Businesses Create Alliance…

While half a dozen Adelaide music venues like Jive and The Grace Emily last year formed the Independent Live Venues Alliance to lobby and be a mouthpiece for their woes, Port Adelaide businesses have also teamed up for the first time to draw audiences to the area.

The Advertiser reported that involved are the Commercial, the British, the Port Admiral, Banksia Tree Café, Fergie Mac’s, Mash Cafe, Studio 99 and Confession.

They jointly run events as Summer Playlist, the council-led New Found Sound and the winter solstice Dark Tides festival in June.

The Live Music Office worked with the City of Port Adelaide to deliver its Live And Local program, a capacity-building initiative for local councils and their live music communities.

LMO Engagement And Program Manager Lucy Joseph explained to, “The program supports councils to deliver a number of national best practice activities, including micro-festival events that pay local musicians to perform in local businesses.

“The aim is activate more local small to medium performance spaces at the grassroots level. The City of Port Adelaide presented New Found Sound recently which was an incredible evening of local music and saw an amazing audience turnout to local venues and businesses spaces.

“We’re looking forward to seeing this kind of live music activity grow as Council continues its support of its local community.”

British Hotel owner and licensee Ash Coulls told the Advertiser that Port Adelaide had changed from being a rough working class area to a one with a younger family-friendly demographic, and music venues had to target events for them.

…And Ed Castle Says Hello…Goodbye

After a celebrated return to action last December after being closed for five years, the Edinburgh Castle on Adelaide’s Currie St suddenly closed its doors and went into liquidation.

After its new owners spent $500,000 on renos with two new bars and a revamped beer garden, they soon discovered that patronage wasn’t covering overheads. It had seven employees.

Ben Thompson Moves On From 170 Russell

After ten years of booking 170 Russell in the Melbourne CBD, Ben Thompson is moving on. “I’m super proud of what we have achieved since 2014,” he posted. Venue operator Lucky Ent will announce a replacement booker shortly.

Thompson will continue to book the Northcote Theatre and has an announcement “in coming weeks on a new 5,500 cap Melbourne venue.”

New Board Members For Empire Theatre

The Empire Theatre, in Queensland’s Darling Downs, billed as the largest performing arts precinct in regional Australia, appointed three new members to its board.

QMusic CEO Kris Stewart, Senior Project Office with the Dept. of Environment and Science Emily Montgomery, and businessman with experience in strategic planning and governance Jim O’Dea, have already officially taken their positions.

The Station Launches On Night Quarter Site

Friday March 1 sees the launch of the Sunshine Coast’s The Station on the site of the old Night Quarter site in Birtinya. 

“The Station is not just an entertainment venue; it's a community experience,” stress locals Chris and Lauren Hignett took over the 6400sq m site last year and run retail outlet Scooter and Skate and Alley-Oops Indoor Skatepark.

Aside from live music, comedy and dance troupes, there’s also an indoor skate park Alleys, a food truck precinct and bar area with over 20 beverages from local suppliers.

The Temper Trap, DJ Havana Brown and DJ Brooklyn, Raw Ordio, Betty Taylor Band and Ampersand play this opening weekend.

The Delany Takes Hours To Court

The Delany is taking its push for new closing times to court. It wanted to extend six days from midnight to 2 am and from 10 pm on Sundays to midnight.

After feedback from residents, the Newcastle Council rejected the idea in 2022 and suggested a 12-month trial of 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays instead. The hotel is appealing to the NSW Land and Environment Court.

Push To Expand Hobart’s Salamanca Sunday 

Hobart City Council’s 12-month trial of amplified live music on Sundays in Salamanca Place has been such a success there are calls to expand it through the rest of Tasmania.

Starting from February 18 and pushed by Alderman Marti Zucco, the scheme for solo and duo acts received praise from traders, eateries, and musicians for how it has increased foot traffic and a growth in community spirit.

Tasmanian Hospitality Association’s CEO Steve Old wanted the scheme adopted “right around the state”, adding, “We hope this is the first of many great initiatives councils do for live music.”

He remarked: "We all know Sundays can be a bit hit or miss in Hobart so for Salamanca Place operators to have an additional entertainment option like this up their sleeve is fantastic.

"Live music is a critical part of Tasmanian hospitality offerings, and a key plank in our 2030 visionary document. We strongly support any measure which will promote our local musicians and showcase their talents."

MCG Improves Security With 24/7 Software

Melbourne Cricket Ground teamed with cloud-based venue operations and safety management platform 24/7 Software.

The partnership covers incident management, real-time communication tools for guests and staff, health and safety request processes, event planning, security guard tours, guest request tracking and analytics.

Henchman In Liquidation

The Gold Coast looks like minus a live music showcase with The Henchman Miami going into liquidation last week, The Gold Coast Bulletin reported. Jared Fairall, 35, is its sole director.

Geelong Launches Safe Night Out campaign

Venues in Geelong, Victoria, joined Victoria Police, the Sexual Assault and Family Violence Centre and Deakin University to stamp out sexual harassment in night time venues. 

New research, led by Deakin University’s Professor Peter Miller and conducted over three months in 2023, found over half of females (55.6 per cent) and 31.7 per cent of males had been sexually harassed in Geelong’s entertainment areas.

The 12-month campaign comes with stern consequences for inappropriate behaviour. In the first instance, the pests will be warned by venue staff and security. They then face a three-month ban from Geelong venues and reported to police.

Further Step For Townsville Concert Hall

The $2 million business case for Townsville’s long-awaited concert hall has been completed by AECOM, the Townsville Bulletin said.

The findings are now being considered by Townsville City Deal, a 15-year alliance by the Federal and Queensland Government and Townsville City Council. The Feds will chip in $98 million while the State Government is up for $50 million with the Council expected to match it.

Possible sites include Dean Park, the former-Townsville Bowls Club site, the Strand’s Hive development which will be a hotel, residential, commercial, retail, dining and entertainment precinct and a redevelopment of the Townsville Civic Theatre which opened in 1978 and has a 959-seat auditorium and a 939-seat theatre.

Ticketek Extends Venues Canberra Deal

The Ticketek agency extended its partnership with Venues Canberra for another decade. It means venues as GIO Stadium and Manuka Oval will continue to get Ticketek parent TEG’s ticketing, technology, data and insight solutions.

The Criterion Takes A Break

The Criterion in Carrington, Newcastle, announced it is Carrington is "taking a break" in 2024 from day-to-day operations while it renovates its upstairs, and in the meantime reinventing itself as a boutique venue for hire.

Synagogue Glass-Stained Site For Music

Vladimir Fanshil and Eleanor Lyons’ production company Live At Yours have held their modern classical shows in sheds, cafes, homes, art galleries and heritage buildings.

But its Melbourne season launched this week in the Toorak Synagogue, cited as ‘the most beautiful acoustics in the country’ by the Chief Conductor of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Umberto Clerici.

Its stained glass windows, towering ceilings and intricate geometric design are expected to showcase the ambience of performances by James Morrison and pianists Konstantin Shamray and Alexander Gavrylyuk.