Good news for lovers of live music who keep asking ‘whatever happened to my local music venue?’ with reports that Melbourne’s Public Bar – which closed its doors at the tail-end of last year after 18 years of supporting the music scene in North Melbourne – will be re-opening, being brought back to life by the owners of Fitzroy’s Old Bar.
Mess + Noise broke the news that Liam Matthews, Singa Unlayiti and Joel Morrison have acquired the Public Bar, aka The National Hotel, which was previously put on the market as a potential residential development. The Old Bar owners have rescued it from its fate as being razed for high-rise inner north living, to return it to its former glory as a live music venue.
Liam Matthews noted to Mess + Noise that they’d been looking into buying the venue for some time, but that they’d missed their opportunity to purchase the venue when it first went on the market. “Someone else grabbed it and changed a few things” says Matthews, “and for whatever reason it didn’t work out. They left and we swooped in.”
Speaking of their plans for the pub, Matthews emphasised the importance of live music in The Public Bar’s reopening, “we hope to have live music every day that we trade – same at The Old Bar,” says Matthews. “We will start by opening three or four days a week until we find our feet then blow it out as much as we can handle. I’d suggest we will end up at some point being open seven days a week.”
As for licensing and renovations, Matthews remained positive that it would not affect what will hopefully be a swift opening, “It’s been closed for a few months now so it’s a bit dusty. We will clean it up a tad and host live music as much as we can,” says Matthews. ” The stage still exists although it’s without a sound system. All the equipment is there for us to pour beer so we will open pretty quickly after getting the licence in our name.”
The liqour licence, says the new proprietors, is “the same licence The Public Bar had” allowing them to open seven days a week and, “go very late over the weekend,” adds Matthews, “In fact, it has a 24 hour licence for Friday and Saturday.”
The best part? The new owners are planning on sticking around, with a lease that is – according to the fresh owners – “nice and long, so all going well, we should be there for quite some time.”
It’s more positive news for Melburnians, another live music location resuscitated by owners – similar to the brand new Footscray venue being launched by the former owners of The Arthouse. That’s on top of last week’s Live Music Roundtable that prompted St. Kilda’s Mayor to do a one-eighty on their views on council relations with live music venues. Councillor Rachel Powning of the City of Port Phillip announcing that they’d be conducting “live music discussions” that will include the St Kilda Live Music Community Group, the St Kilda Tourism Board, musicians, traders associations and local residents.
It’s a heartening step for supporters of Australia’s live music scene, and the latest turn of events following Sydney’s disastrous state of affairs, including the recent closure of the legendary Sando, and politicians using a King’s Cross death as the scapegoat to install a greater user-base of pokie-lined beer barns. Hopefully the new ‘Labor Loves Live Music’ campaign will do something to stem the ‘fun police’ tactics of aggravated local councils and the weak government support that the Liberal party is providing in NSW.
Meanwhile out West, the battle between live music and councils continues to rage, with the Perth Big Day Out being threatened by its potential Claremont festival site, with its Mayor, Jock Barker saying they’ll bar any attempts by Big Day Out organisers to apply for council permission.