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Another Melbourne Venue For Sale As Live Music Census Is Revealed

5 April 2023 | 9:39 am | Mary Varvaris

The census reveals that only 47% of the venues licensed for live music in 2019 have renewed their licenses for 2021/2022.

(Hotel Westwood via Facebook)

Footscray waterhole Hotel Westwood is up for sale, sending an echo of The Tote for the owners and readers alike. 

Where this pub and music venue differs, however, is in what co-owner James Young (operator of the Cherry Bar in Melbourne’s CBD) told the Sydney Morning Herald: “There’s 21 years left on the lease. There’s no risk of it being sold to a developer.” 

So, luckily, Hotel Westwood won’t be turned into more apartments and will remain a music venue.

Young ran out of money during the Covid-19 pandemic trying to keep the venue afloat and make repairs to the kitchen, he said to the publication. He’s out of gas. 

It’s a story we hear more and more from owners of iconic venues, with Sam Crupi and Jon Perring saying they have “no petrol left in the tank” to continue operating The Tote.

The Tote is at risk of being sold to developers for $6 to 6.6 million. Shane Wilson and his partner, Leanne, who run the Last Chance Rock And Roll Bar in Melbourne, are running a Pozible crowdfunding campaign to save The Tote and need to put in their bid this week.

The couple have managed to save half the funds but need our help to close the deal. The Last Chance To Save The Tote campaign ends this week, and right now, it’s at $1,078,059 of its $3 million target.

Shane Hilton said in a social media statement, “In all likelihood, it will be purchased by a developer, and the Tote will no longer exist. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Shane and Leanne took over the Last Chance in 2016. If successful with this endeavour, 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 Pozible campaign is run with an “all or nothing” fundraising approach, meaning that crowd funders won't be charged unless Shane and Leanne win their bid for The Tote. 

Today, Music Victoria has unveiled the 2021-2022 Victorian Live Music Census, which shows how endemic these issues have become since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

In 2020 and 2021, over 75% of Victorian events were cancelled, postponed or rescheduled, while 74% of performers lost out on opportunities. Many casual and part-time jobs in music were cut (74%), which we may not see again. 71% of the audience and visitor spending was lost, a 72% cut of music-related income by performers was witnessed, and 46% of performers were considering leaving the industry.

The report further states, “Small venues were particularly hard-hit by lockdowns and restrictions. Various sources estimate that in 2020 the small venues sector was operating at approximately 8% of 2019 capacity, with the majority of the 2,670 Full-Time Equivalent workers losing their employment. 

“Things improved somewhat in 2021, but only 47% of the venues licensed for live music in 2019 have so far renewed their licenses for 2021/2022.”

Simone Shinkel, the CEO of Music Victoria, shared in a statement, “The insights from our census provide a great benchmark. This is the first time we have access to whole-of-state data and findings that will help guide the potential and growth trajectory for our live music industry.”

Shinkel added, “Victoria is renowned for its world-famous live music scene. As such, our priority is to secure support, partnerships, resources and investment that enhance and build the Victorian live music sector to make it even better.”

You can check out the census here.