A local live music venue and community have been left shaking their heads after brazen thieves made off with the band room’s vintage cash register after a successful night on Saturday in Melbourne.

Local venue The Empress have been using the old register for nearly 20 years and over that time has collected money for many of Melbourne’s local musicians.

“Sandra Eunson, the owner of the pub, says she picked it up 2nd hand,” said band booker Jeremy Furze. “[we’ve always] had it placed at the door to the bandroom where either a door person or the bands themselves would sit and collect. The till lives unguarded at the bandroom doorway, it is simply too heavy to move anywhere else.”

The theft occurred last Saturday as musicians were loading their gearing out the venue after another successful gig, sometime between midnight and 1am. “We had three bands on Saturday night, one of them was a 10-piece so there was a lot of gear being loaded out between midnight and 1am,” explained Furze.

“According to someone sitting in the front bar, three young guys dressed in black carried out a heavy box with a coat over it. He assumed it was an amp, then realized it was actually the band till once the bar manager started asking around. It’s extremely heavy so they can’t have carried it far. Either into a car or a nearby house.”

“This till is loved by musicians and punters alike. We like to think it’s not owned by The Empress but by the musicians who’ve sat behind it hoping to make a small profit from their music for over 20 years, a real piece of Melbourne music history. That someone would steal the very object which collects a musician’s income is such a disgrace.”

“The symbolism is not lost on us. This year we celebrate 25 years as a live music venue and, yeah, we’re very proud of that achievement but the future of the pub is never certain. Empress gigs don’t sell hundreds of tickets in advance or gain widespread media attention, we just book acts that we believe in and want to see reach the next level.”

“It’s no secret that stepping stone venues like us are doing it tough in the current climate, just look around at the recent closures. The last thing we need is theft of our (sentimental) valuables.”

Indeed, the theft of valuables from a local live music venue is a harsh blow for those who have survived a tough economic environment, adding yet another burden on Melbourne’s live music scene.

Previous victims of the economic downturn include the recent closure of East Brunswick Club following its Laneway Festival sideshows, as well as both The Arthouse and The Public Bar in the last year. Adding to that, is the bleak future of The Prince Bandroom in St Kilda since it was sold to a restaurant group.

It’s a distressing pattern nation-wide too, with Sydney’s recently departed Abercrombie Hotel and Canberra’s The Greenroom. The last two years have also seen Brisbane losing The Troubadour, plus Tone Bar and the Gaelic in Sydney.

But The Empress isn’t giving up, offering a cash reward for the return of their beloved register. “If the people responsible want to rectify their actions we’ll happily take it back no questions asked. They might like to leave it in the alleyway behind the pub for guaranteed anonymity.”

“If anyone has any information about the whereabouts of the till, please email Jeremy at booker@theempresshotel.com.au . It’s a big clunky box with raised mechanical buttons. It’s covered in stickers, hardened blu-tac and general grime. It doesn’t work so the tray won’t ever fully close. It is VERY heavy.”