By Andrew Starke

The Liberal Party in Victoria has accused the Brumby Government of killing off live music venues in the state with draconian liquor licensing laws.

Proprietors of The Arthouse, a stalwart of Melbourne’s live music scene for the past 19 years, will not extend their long-term lease in May next year.

The announcement comes less than a week after The Tote said it would be forced to close unless exempted from new liquor licensing laws being imposed across Victoria.

The Arthouse’s manager, Melanie Bodiam, told The Age that Liquor Licensing Victoria had given the venue two options: close at 1am instead of 3am, or stay open until 3am at a reduced capacity of 90, instead of 300.

She said both options were financially unworkable.

“We’re only three weeks into the year and already two high-profile live music venues have succumbed to the Brumby Government’s unfair liquor laws,” Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs, Michael O’Brien, said.

“How many music venues will be killed off, how many workers will lose their jobs, how many small businesses will close, before Labor listens?”

O’Brien said the new regulations were ‘greedy and ridiculous’ and said the state’s Premier, John Brumby would now have to accept full personal responsibility for the damage being done by ‘these unfair and uninformed policies’.

“Tinkering at the edges cannot fix a fundamentally broken licensing system,: he said. “The Premier must immediately scrap his unfair liquor licensing fees and regulations and develop a genuinely risk-based system that won’t kill off responsible and well-run licensed venues.”

Nightclub Owners Forum convenor, Peter Iwaniuk, said more venues would follow the two music establishments into extinction as the licence fee deadline approaches.

“Your Government continues to introduce flawed public policy which threatens to decimate a legitimate industry comprising mainly small business operators that is vital to Victoria’s social and economic development,” he said in an open letter to Premier John Brumby.

“No late night venue is safe – live music venues, dance clubs, and even strip clubs are all in your sights – the only venues you are protecting and nurturing are gaming venues.”

It is believed that Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister, Tony Robinson, and Liquor Licensing director, Sue Maclellan, are considering reworking some of the rules that apply to individual music venues.

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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