Bendigo Hotel owner launches petition to save Melbourne live music venues

"Many if not most venues will close in the coming months, never to open again"

Bendigo Hotel owner Guy Palermo has launched a petition calling for measures to save Melbourne’s live music venues. At time of writing, it has racked up nearly 2,500 signatures.

The petition, which was created three days ago, asks the Victorian State Government to pause all liquor licensing and other fees till venues are safe to reopen. It also requests local councils to find alternative uses for their now-vacant spaces.

“Music venues might be able to weather the storm for a few weeks but many if not most venues will close in the coming months, never to open again,” the petition reads.

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“All those years of experience, networks, loyal customers, reputation and culture will be gone. It will take many years for Melbourne to recover, if ever. We need to give a lifeline to keep venues afloat whilst this virus shuts us down.”

“Venues should be provided assurance that they will be provided with immediate support,” Palermo told NME Australia today (March 24).

“This is to ensure everyone has the same level of government financial assistance. As it stands, the guidelines only cover business which meet a specifically defined criteria. We need a blanket cover to ensure everyone is included and supported.”

The petition also calls on several other parties to lend assistance. These include landlords, ticketing companies, insurance companies, the PPCA and APRA, among others.

Palermo told NME Australia that the Bendigo is ceasing all operation for the time being, as their business had been “severely affected” by the shutdown of all non-essential services (cinemas, casinos, clubs and gyms included) and government bans on public gatherings.

Australian metal bands Orpheus Omega and Hybrid Nightmares were slated to play at the Bendigo Hotel on March 20 before the venue announced its immediate closure on March 17.

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“We were one of the first venues to close their doors,” Palermo told NME Australia.

“We had to advise staff that there was no work for them for at least six months. As of the moment, we don’t know about the future of the venue, unless the state government can assist us in keeping it afloat. Then there’s the issue of us venue owners too — what do we do for income while we wait?”

I Lost My Gig — a website tracking the Australian music industry’s devastating financial losses from the coronavirus — currently tallies $300million in lost income, with just under 600,000 impacted jobs. However, Palermo remains sceptical of these figures.

“I think that’s only a small fraction of the real cost,” he says. “So many people haven’t registered themselves on that website, so I believe that number is way below the real financial impact.”

You can sign the petition here.

Yesterday, Melbourne’s self-proclaimed “home of rock” The Tote announced its closure, while simultaneously launching a GoFundMe page to support its staff.

Recently, Federal Labor Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke told NME Australia that “Australian culture will change forever” if the government does not include the arts in their secondary coronavirus stimulus package.

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