Open letter signed by 100+ venues calls on Vic Government to ease restrictions

The letter was signed by representatives from venues including The Espy, Corner Hotel, Northcote Social Club, Forum Theatre and The Tote

An open letter signed by more than 100 venue representatives calling for a “clear and balanced roadmap for easing restrictions and increasing venue capacities” has been delivered to the Victorian Government.

The letter was coordinated by Save Our Scene and is signed by representatives from prominent Victorian venues including The Espy, Corner Hotel, Northcote Social Club, Forum Theatre and The Tote. It calls on the Andrews Government to ease venue density restrictions in the hopes of securing more income to remain afloat.

“Following nine months of closure, Victoria’s live music venues recommenced operating in December 2020 with COVID safe capacity restrictions in place, based on a density quotient of 1 person per 2sqm,” the letter reads.

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“These restrictions mean our venues are operating at around 30 per cent of their licensed capacity, resulting in a 70 per cent drop in revenue whilst fixed costs including rent, insurance, utilities and staff remain static.”

The full open letter is available to read on the Save Our Scene website.

The letter arrives at the Premier’s doorstep two weeks out from the end of the JobKeeper scheme on March 28. Despite calls from various arts bodies to either extend the scheme or provide tailored support for the sector, the Federal Government has indicated no additional assistance.

In Victoria, indoor seated venues are currently limited to 75 per cent of their regular capacities up to 1,000 people, and unseated venues can open with up to 50 per cent capacity or 1,000 people.

Outdoor unseated venues are subject to a two-square-metre rule, while seated venues are limited to 75 per cent of their seated capacity per space up to 1,000 patrons.

The Victorian Government had previously introduced a $15million Live Music Venues Program to support venues while restrictions were in place. Two rounds of funding from this pool have since been distributed to businesses. However, signatories claim the funding only went so far.

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The letter also makes the comparison to the various sporting events, such as the Australian Open, which have been allowed to proceed over the course of the pandemic.

“Victoria’s live music venues have an audience of 110,000+ every Saturday night – more than an AFL grand final,” the letter reads.

“The industry generates tens of thousands of jobs, from musicians and DJs to bookers, promoters, publicists, venue operators, hospitality and bar staff, technicians, security staff and a vast network of ancillary suppliers and contractors.”

It continues: “We applaud the Victorian Government for last year’s $15million Live Music Venues Program, which helped save many Victorian venues from permanent closure, however the majority of venues are still severely debt laden from nine months of closure and have only been able to reopen at such low capacities with the support of Jobkeeper.

“The reopening of live music venues has seen Victorian artists performing again and our industry’s live music and hospitality workers back in employment. Help us to preserve this vital cultural sector for the long term by increasing venue capacities now.”

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