BIG WIN FOR LIVE MUSIC VENUES- BY JASON DOWLING
January 27, 2010
LIVE music venues are expected to be the big winners from an urgent meeting today between the Director of Liquor Licensing Sue Maclellan and representatives of the live music scene.
It is believed the licensing regulator will reverse blanket high-risk enforcement on all music venues, an approach that has been blamed for the closure of popular Collingwood live music venue The Tote.
A State Government source said the director was likely to tell the live music sector that a more case-by-case approach to the tough rules would now be taken.
''The Government, director and industry all want to determine what flexibility can be exercised to ensure the ongoing viability of live music venues,'' the Government insider said.
Inner-city Government MPs faced an electoral backlash at this year's state election against the tough licensing requirements that have seen The Tote close and other venues threatened.
Melanie Bodiam, manager of live music venue The Arthouse, on the corner of Elizabeth and Queensberry streets, said she was extremely pleased about the expected change in approach by the liquor licensing regulator.
''Common sense prevailed - you wouldn't believe the smile on my face now,'' she said. Four bands will perform at The Arthouse tonight.
Apart from higher fees, requirements on live music venues had not changed since 1999. But many of those conditions, such as minimum security levels, have only recently been strictly enforced.
Ms Bodiam said venues would like more information on what a ''case by case'' basis meant. She said the new criteria should be determined in consultation with the music industry. But she said the backdown was a big win for the live music industry.
''It is so exciting to know that people have stood up and said what they want,'' she said.
Consumer Affairs Minister Tony Robinson said: ''The Government is very concerned about preserving a future for live music in Melbourne and we will work towards getting the balance right so we keep our streets safe and maintain the viability of live music venues.''
Under the current blanket approach, high-risk conditions are imposed on venues with live or amplified music and those trading past 1am. High-risk conditions on a licence require the licensee to employ a minimum level of security and install CCTV.
The State Government is also working on a longer-term strategy to help sustain Melbourne's live music culture.
The strategy is being developed by Mr Robinson and will include consultation with musicians, venue owners and managers, police and the Director of Liquor Licensing. The longer-term strategy will also consider issues such as when people move into areas serviced by live music and then complain about noise.