The co-directors of Lion Arts Factory have launched a campaign to rescue the Adelaide venue – along with parent company Five Four Entertainment – from the devastating financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
But according to co-founders Craig Lock and Ross Osman, the venue (along with Five Four Entertainment and their other venture, club night promoters Plus One Co.) has been brought to its knees since COVID-19 hit Australia in March of last year, suffering significant losses throughout.
According to Lock, Five Four Entertainment and its businesses collectively employed 24 full-time equivalent staff and had a total yearly economic impact of $35million prior to the pandemic.
However, in the 18 months since capacity restrictions, lockdowns and other measures were introduced, Lock says trading levels have fallen to between 0-10 per cent of their normal operation. Both Lion Arts Factory and Five Four Entertainment, as a result, are six months or less away from declaring bankruptcy and being forced to shut their doors.
Lion Arts Factory leases its building from the South Australian government, after having won a tender process in 2018, and Lock claims that the government is still charging them 100 percent rent “despite state-based restrictions making it nearly impossible to trade”.
He adds, “Further and most pressing, our lease is slated to end in December 2021, and we have been given no answers as to a long-term lease extension despite extensive discussions with staff at the Department of Premier and Cabinet for the past 18 months.”
Despite restrictions, Lock says that they have “tried everything” to keep the businesses alive. Five Four Entertainment operated COVID-safe music festival Summer Sounds earlier this year alongside Groove Events and Secret Sounds, running 18 socially-distanced events at Bonython Park. But despite selling over 30,000 tickets, the series was not financially viable as a business model.
Lion Arts Factory, meanwhile, has attempted to run reduced club nights and gigs and operate at 45 per cent capacity. “No matter how many events and formats we try our businesses [are] not sustainable with the current level of state-based restrictions, capacities and level of inadequate government funding available to us,” Lock says.
A petition – which can be found here – has been launched calling on the Adelaide Government to provide support to the venue and its parent company, addressed to the South Australian Premier and Minister for the Arts Steven Marshall. At time of writing, over 5,300 people have signed.
For Lion Arts Factory, Lock and Osman are asking for an immediate five-year extension on their lease along with a grant of $100,000 to allow them to “retain staff, absorb ongoing financial losses and have enough future tenure to recoup losses”.
For Five Four Entertainment, they’re asking for a $400,000 grant for similar purposes, along with providing the company the ability to run large-scale events that require a big upfront investment once restrictions are eased.
“If Five Four Entertainment and Lion Arts Factory fail not only will 15 full-time jobs, $28 million in economic impact, over 100,000 festival and concert tickets and close to 2,500 flow on job roles/opportunities be lost,” Lock says.
“The entire group, as well as the current contemporary South Australian music industry they have helped create, could collapse.”