Venues Update: For Sale! New Management Noise Complaints! Crass Campaigns!

24 June 2023 | 10:38 am | Christie Eliezer

It’s never a dull moment for those running music venues around Australia.

Festival Hall relaunch event

Festival Hall relaunch event (Credit: Mary Varvaris)

Putting out the For Sale sign, new management, loss of live music due to single complaints, investigations by animal rights groups, debt reports and Hall of Fame inductions. 

It’s never a dull moment for those running music venues around the country.

Here are just some updates.

For Sale

Sugar, Adelaide

After ups and downs, Adelaide’s Sugar is up for sale, with the owner and DJ Driller Jet Armstrong hoping the business will be taken over by someone who will “keep its soul alive.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

The sale is for the business only (which comes with a 5 am licence and “one of Australia’s best sound systems”), not the second-floor space on Rundle Street, which Sugar leased until late last year when it closed due to spiralling insurance premiums.

Armstrong opened the business in November 2002 and showcased 870 international acts.

Rolling Rock, Noosa

Interest in Noosa’s Rolling Rock nightclub is strong, reports Forde Property agent Jessie Allen, presumably as it’s one of the few with a 2 am licence on Hastings St and operates on Fridays and Saturdays at full capacity.

For $750,000, the buyer gets two bars, booth seating, a DJ console, a dance floor and bathrooms, plus an office space. 

Opened in the late ‘80s and a celebrity magnet, Rolling Rock famously barred U2 because two of their 16-strong entourage wore open-toed sandals, with the club shrugging, “Rules are rules.”

Under New Management

Melbourne Festival Hall

Tour promoter and venue operator Live Nation threw a gala bash to officially announce its taking over the long-term lease of Melbourne’s Festival Hall, owned by Hillsong Church.

Initial changes were a new sound system, an upgraded backstage area, and the Lionel Rose MBE Stage Door named after the late First Nations boxing champion.

The June 15 relaunch event coincided with the 59th anniversary of The Beatles’ performance at the venue.

So the Australian Rock Collective (ARC), featuring members of Jet, Powderfinger, and You Am I, recreated the exact setlist performed by The Beatles. 

The Imperial, Sydney

Sydney LGBTQ+ mecca, The Imperial in inner west Erskineville, has been sold to the Universal Hotels group.

The venue, featured in the opening scenes of 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, was renowned for its drag’n’dine shows.

Former owners Sydney Collective bought it for $6.5 million in 2015, forked out a further $6 million on renovations, and sold it for an estimated $18 million to $20 million.

Universal Hotels CEO Harris Kospetas said in a statement, “The opportunity to transact on the Imperial was one in which we believed had great synergy with our group of venues.

“We have a strong connection with the LGBTQIA+ community and are very excited about the next chapter for the venue.”

Other Universal venues include the Newtown Hotel, Civic Hotel and Crown Hotel in Surry Hills, and LGBTQ+ venues The Riley, Oxford Hotel, and Universal Sydney on Oxford Street.

Noise Complaints

Working with local communities to solve noise complaint problems does work for venues.

As TheMusic reported, the Inner West Council in Sydney dropped charges against The Great Club in Marrickville after the 350-capacity room stopped all outdoor entertainment, capped crowds and controlled sound levels.

Hound and Stag, Gold Coast

Similarly, on the Gold Coast, the Hound and Stag in Arundel also appeased residents who hit the complaints button after a house music DJ set on Sunday night that lasted until 11.30 pm.

Owner Gemma Roberts directly contacted the residents to apologise and explain, “We are a new business that is trialling new things.”

She stated, “We were actually under our DB reading, but it was a combination of the bass from the DJ's music that we don’t normally have and, believe it or not, the main factor being the way the wind was travelling.”

The venue, which opened six months ago, has second thoughts about booking DJs on Sunday nights.

Cue Bar, Adelaide

The Cue Bar in Norwood, Adelaide, has dropped its live music (mostly Cuban) and all dancing and is focussing on its pool tables after facing hefty fines from sound complaints.

The Burrow, It’s Still A Secret, Brisbane

A piece in the Courier Mail about Brisbane music venues feeling the twack from complaints noted that many were single objections.

This was the reason behind O’Skulligans in Fortitude Valley having to unplug the amps in February and why The Burrow in West End is in the wars.

Emily Dennis, the owner of It’s Still A Secret on Montague Rd, said constant complaints from two residents forced her “to order my staff not to speak when they get in their cars to leave.

“Liquor Licensing have tried to offer mediation, but they (the complainants) won’t accept it.

“I’ve had to spend a lot of money I don’t have after COVID and after we got flooded (last year) on buying noise monitoring equipment and hiring sound engineers.”


Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide

West Torrens Council in Adelaide has applied to make $8 million worth of renos to the 2,000-seat Thebarton Theatre over two years.

This includes a new two-storey lobby that will include a new entry foyer, a lift and stairs, extra front-of-house facilities, a new loading dock, new joinery works to the bar and lounge areas, signage replacement and car park works.

McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle

The 30,000-seat McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, which returned to hosting concerts after 30 years this year, is enhancing its field screen technology for a better fan experience.

It has applied to install two 160 metre² HD resolution LED video screens, which are twice the size of the current ones, which came from the old Parramatta Stadium in 2017.

NSW Minister for the Hunter, Tim Crakanthorp, said the screens, when installed in 2024, would put the venue on par with those in Sydney and “help attract more major events to Newcastle which will mean less time on the M1 for them.”

The Metropolitan, Mackay

The $1.6 million revamp by the Australian Venue Co for the Metropolitan in Mackay included gigs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the beer garden and a new mobile stage in the bistro.

Some Other Stuff

* A report has shown that the Hop Inn in Mount Duneed, Geelong, which abruptly closed its doors on January 31, owed $250,000 – of which $75,000 was to staff, while the Australian Taxation Office was owed $59,000.

According to the Geelong Advertiser, the venue, which opened in 2018 and became a popular live music venue, struggled during COVID and was hit with an 84% rise in rent.

* Jean Perkins starts at Optus Stadium, Perth, on Monday, June 26, as Head of Media and Government Relations.

She was most recently at the Dept. of the Premier and Cabinet, developing plans for all aspects of major events.

* The Barn Palais, a one-time big-draw music venue in Mt. Gambier, South Australia, has become the first regional pub to be inducted into the SA Music Hall of Fame.

Also inducted is its operator in the 1960s, Dale Cleves OAM.

* Adelaide nightclub Woolshed apologised after a fierce public backlash on social media for an ill-advised stunt where female patrons could get free drinks if they took their bras off.

An A cup got one free drink, two for B and three for C.

* Another club that faced backlash (and a rumoured investigation by the RSPCA) was the new Two Wrongs in Melbourne, which used snakes and baby crocodiles onstage at its launch party.

These would have been distressing to the vibration-sensitive critters in that loud pulsating environment.

* After hitting metal gigs using the Tamworth Town Hall with a refundable 50% security deposit (twice as much as for other genres), Tamworth Regional Council will decide at the end of June whether to drop the fee, the ABC said.