THE Tote Hotel, one of Melbourne’s most influential live music venues — and late-night haunt for musicians and fans alike — will shut its doors early next week.

Embattled owner Bruce Milne, who purchased the licence with his brother James in 2001, said yesterday the Tote was a victim of liquor licensing measures that deem his business a ”high-risk venue” on par with King Street’s nightclubs.

The Age

So you’ve become Premier/Minister/hack MP in a 21st century Labor government in Victoria. Congratulations! All those years of crap in student politics, sucking up to branch fixers, etc, have paid off.

You’ve managed to avoid ever having an actual job, taking your place in a self-selecting political caste of teenage misfits who joined Young Labor to find someone who’d talk to them.

Now you run a whole state, with a city of three-and-a-half million people as its centrepiece — a one-time industrial and commerce centre now globally famous as a centre of art, design, music, writing, etc. Over two decades, assisted by some judicious decisions by past governments of both parties, your capital city has gone from being a famously dour black hole to a huge cultural and tourist enterprise, as well as a genuine hub of new ideas.

Your mission is clear: kill it.

First, of course, you’ve got to pay lip service to it, with endless boilerplate speeches about new life in old cities, etc. But really goddam I mean, culture. Henry Bolte had all the luck. Grow it, dig it up, bang it into shape and sell it. How to get it back to that torpid, easily managed condition?

First off, let the police dictate social policy. This makes the difficult task of squaring off the claims of free citizenship versus social order by abolishing the former. Once you see society through the eye of the police — as simply a problem to be managed — things will be much easier. They can run the state as an enormous stop and search zone, and you can get on with sub-factional fights between “the Pack” and “the Ring” or whatever six fat groupers in the East Bumcrack branch are calling themselves now.

Second, there’s only one person who matters at the end of the day. No, not the voter, what are ya? I mean the editor of the Herald Sun. Treat every panic as accurate reporting, and assume that every area of social life needs the sort of control applied to the worst areas. Treat every hole-in-the-wall bar as if it were a King St bloodhouse, and make every children’s party at the Ola Cohn fairy tree have two security staff, just in case there’s a red cordial incident.

You can then govern in the spirit by which Hilaire Belloc defined puritanism — “the fear that someone somewhere may be having fun” — and let’s face it, these musos, artists, etc, can be arseholes. Remember how everyone laughed at you when you said that the city needed to wipe out all the stencil art and put in window boxes and flowerpots? Who doesn’t like flowerpots? Jeezis. Next they’ll be making fun of your Enya CDs, or your DVD box set Films of Ron Howard.

Sometimes you may accidentally find you do something interesting, such as build a world-class building at Southern Cross station, a truly striking masterwork. You must screw this up as quickly as possible. First put a bunker-style factory outlet next to it — and just in case it doesn’t stuff up the look, connect it to the building so that it does. Then, when people are consoling themselves that at least it looks great from the other end, let The Age put up a third-rate shed that ruins the roofline along the street.

Remember, it’s not enough to do bad urban design. The mark of a 21st century Labor government is to act as if urban design matters, spend tens of millions extra on the architecture — and then screw it up, almost gleefully. What you really need to communicate to people is your half-hearted commitment to the city, your lack of follow-through, and your deeper buried hostility to these frikkin citizens, yap yap yap yap all the time, when you’re about to lose East Bumcrack Macedonian branch to the TWU-MORO front subfactions.

Now, you’re getting into your stride, and you can really focus on making the city as diminished as possible. There’s a lot of bars and cafes around. Wonder how come they sprang up? Whatever, there’s such a shedload that raising their license fees 500% will really help pay for a decade of incompetent public transport stuff-ups. Besides, all that noise those music venues make — how we supposed to get on with making a global city of culture with all that mofo racket? Jeezis.

Besides, getting rid of all that music makes it easier to put up oversized slab-tilt apartment blocks  — vital if you’re to destroy whatever distinctive selling point a Victorian city has, and a way of avoiding innovative and dynamic solutions to population growth. Use Docklands as an example — let corporate clients dictate the planning of remaining inner-urban land, and create that most amazing of things, a pre-fabricated urban wasteland. Label it “the Warsaw end of Collins Street” and put it on the Neighbours tour. Add in the huge white elephant film studio you built against the advice of every uncompromised media industry figure, who told you it would be undercut by cheaper facilities within five years, and technically obsolete within 10.

But at least throw a bone to the city’s stand-up comedians — call the farcically mismanaged smart-ticketing system “Mickey”.

Finally, attend a glittering series of official functions for organisations piggybacking on the culture you’re killing. Wonder why everyone’s so angry at you. Resolve to redouble your war against the public.

Above all, be secure in the knowledge that tens of thousands of bar owners, musos, activists, etc, will not get themselves together to mount a high-profile, high-volume campaign in your marginal electorates, scaring the hell out of you. Rest assured they’re too unfocused and whiny to combine their significant financial resources, high-profile public image and creative energies to give you a problem you can’t ignore.

Quietly order the old 6 o’clock closing legislation from the archives …

Put on some Enya.

Peter Fray

Save up to 50% on a year of Crikey.

This extraordinary year is almost at an end. But we know that time waits for no one, and we won’t either. This is the time to get on board with Crikey.

For a limited time only, choose what you pay for a year of Crikey.

Save up to 50% or dig deeper so we can dig deeper.

See you in 2021.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

SAVE 50%