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Apr 12, 2010

New Tote proprietor to press Brumby on liquor changes

New Tote Hotel proprietor Jon Perring has called on the Victorian government to immediately fix its liquor licensing laws, to avoid a repeat of the saga that forced the hallowed rock venue to shut its doors.

New Tote Hotel proprietor Jon Perring has called on the Victorian government to immediately fix its liquor licensing laws, to avoid a repeat of the saga that forced the hallowed rock venue to shut its doors.

One day after Victorian premier John Brumby interrupted his Sunday afternoon to pose for TV cameras inside the soon-to-be-reopened Tote front bar, Crikey understands Perring will deliver a list of demands to permanently change the regulatory landscape.

In a discussion on the sidelines of yesterday’s event, Perring told Crikey he would ask the government to insert a clause into the Victorian Liquor Control Reform Act to protect “associated industries” such as live music, forcing the Director of Liquor Licensing to specifically consider the impact on the scene when ruling on license conditions.

“The re-opening of the Tote is a very valuable first step…but there’s more to be done, and we will talk to the government. We’re confident we’ve got dialogue…we don’t want to have to stage another rally,” Perring said.

Yesterday, Perring’s company Seventh Tipple announced that The Tote would re-open in six weeks, after the group revealed it had signed a lease agreement with owners Colonial Leisure Group in the lead-up to Easter. In addition to his duties as one of The Tote’s three new publicans, Perring is the public face of lobby group Fair Go 4 Live Music, which co-organised a public protest that saw 10,000 Melburnians descend on Parliament House.

In New South Wales, bureaucrats must take into account the interests of the live music industry when ruling on licence conditions. However, in Victoria the Liquor Licensing Commissioner is an independent appointment and operates at arm’s length from the Act.

Under the Live Music Accord signed with the government in February, venues such as the The Tote are able to apply to have high-risk conditions, that mandated minimum security levels, removed. But progress has been slow, with an application from Brunswick’s Lomond Hotel to have its status changed stuck in bureaucratic limbo. The Tote’s application is expected to be fast-tracked in the wake of yesterday’s announcement.

Crikey understands that the industry will also demand changes to “order of occupancy” requirements, that protect venues from noise complaints from new residents.

Premier Brumby hinted at the prospect of further negotiations when questioned by Crikey, saying that the government “would continue to work with licensees to deliver outcomes” and adding that the government had “changed the nexus” on the issue.

The “saving” of The Tote comes after the state member for Richmond, Richard Wynne, concerned about his re-election prospects, waged a personal three-month battle to see the venue salvaged, which involved him returning early from Christmas holidays for crisis talks with the property’s owner, Computershare mogul Chris Morris.

Perring has had Wynne’s ear throughout the saga, and yesterday praised his input as “helpful in ensuring that the voice of Melbourne’s live music scene was heard within government.”

Crikey understands that the signing of the Accord was a crucial factor in convincing Colonial Leisure, controlled by Morris, to sign the new Tote lease with Seventh Tipple. The accord effectively convinced Seventh Tipple’s bankers that the venue could survive as a viable business with its onerous security requirements removed.

Yesterday, Wynne said he would ask Yarra Council to close off Wellington Street for the venue’s re-opening party, calling the prospect of an outdoor event “a great celebration for the community”. This morning, Wynne wrote to Yarra Mayor Jane Garrett to announce his intentions.

The line-up is yet to be determined, but Seventh Tipple’s Andrew Portokallis said there were “heaps of bands” in contention that were unable to play the venue’s last stand in January. The Cosmic Psychos were a last minute withdrawal from the farewell gig after bassist Ross Knight hurt himself lifting weights.

Meanwhile, Morris confirmed yesterday that previous proprietor Bruce Milne’s personal financial situation, especially a botched beer deal with the collapsed Blueprint festival, had contributed to The Tote’s demise, as previously reported by Crikey. On Jon Faine this morning, Perring said Milne would soon be auctioning The Tote’s remaining squares of sticky carpet, which were nowhere to be seen yesterday.

However, Perring said the Tote name is expected to be retained, pending negotiations with Milne.

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One thought on “New Tote proprietor to press Brumby on liquor changes

  1. John Bennetts

    Has anybody a rational reason for lincenced premises staying open past, say, 1am?

    After all, if you haven’t picked up a stand by 1am, there’s virtually no chance of improving your options anytime thereafter. Those who “strike it lucky” after 1am will almost certainly wake up later in the morning wondering just where the unlovely drunk in bed beside them came from and what he/she is doing there.

    How long does one need in order to engage in a bit of drinking, a bit of social discourse and to find a mate?

    Glad to see that you will soon re-open, but… suggestions…
    1. No front end loading – blow under .05 at entry or don’t come in.
    2. No late arrivals. Last in at (say) 12pm.
    3. Last drinks at (say) 12:30.
    4. Last out at 1am.
    5. Noise levels within the venue to be mandated at not more than is allowable at any other workplace for continuous exposure for a 2-hour period.

    Sounds reasonable and sensible to me. Now, over to the regulators.