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Adelaide music venues forced to close

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Adelaide clubs and music venues are being forced to close their doors or axe all live gigs due to the coronavirus pandemic, with local musicians left feeling the pinch and the industry nationally sending out an SOS to fans.

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Local venues the Lion Arts Factory, Hindley Street’s Jive and Rocket Bar & Rooftop, and Electric Circus this week closed their doors following the growing concerns regarding COVID-19 and government restrictions on non-essential public gatherings of more than 100 people.

Jive, which had several live shows scheduled for the coming weeks, wrote on Facebook yesterday that is was “with a very heavy heart” it was forced to announce the venue’s immediate closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With gig cancellations all around the country and a government enforced ban on non-essential gatherings over 100, it is no longer viable for us to open our doors,” it said.

“This crisis affects every single person, but the music/arts and hospitality industry are facing the toughest times we have ever known, and we hope there is a way to band together and support everyone through this unprecedented crisis.”

The Lion Arts Factory said it had also been forced to make the “devastating decision” to close its doors for an indefinite time while the restrictions are in place, and urged music fans to support musicians by streaming their favourite artists or buying music and merchandise while gigs are shut down.

The Thebarton Theatre has had a slew of upcoming shows cancelled, while the Governor Hindmarsh is keeping its bar and restaurant open but will have no venue gigs for the foreseeable future.

Sarah Martin, publicist for The Gov, said management was doing everything possible to keep the venue operating “but in a very reduced capability”.

“So far we’ve had at least 50 shows in the venue cancelled, and when you consider other shows that would normally happen in the front of the hotel there would be at least 80. All tours – local, national and international – have stopped.

“By the time this plays out in the next few months, that will probably be 150 to 200 shows.”

The Gov employs around 40 people, and Martin said it wanted to keep its doors open to support them and also to maintain a sense of community for the public. She added that there was enough space that patrons could adhere to social distancing recommendations, and more stringent cleaning and hygiene measures had also been introduced.

It is currently exploring the idea of live-streaming closed gigs from the venue.

“We’re trying to think outside the box … we’re looking for business partners to do that,” Martin said. “There’s no reason we couldn’t have a [closed, livestreamed] gig on every night, giving artists and locals work.”

Popular Waymouth Street pub the Grace Emily Hotel also remains open to the public, but with no live music.

Publican Symon Jarowyj told CityMag earlier this week that the venue had suffered a double blow after a “crippling” Adelaide Fringe season which saw a 40 per cent drop in takings compared with previous years.

Concerns surrounding COVID-19 had prompted two interstate acts to cancel planned shows at the Grace Emily this weekend and other bands booked to perform had expressed concerns over whether they should play – “so I have decided to stop all gigs effective immediately for the next two weeks and will keep the front bar open until we are told to close by government officials”.

A national Music Industry Taskforce has today launched a Sounds of Silence (SOS) initiative in the hope of alleviating what it describes as “the severe hemorrhaging of income that has come with widespread cancellations of festivals, concerts, shows and local gigs”.

The campaign urges people to support Australian artists and music industry workers in a range of ways, including by donating to the Support Act appeal, buying merchandise, streaming and buying Australian music, asking radio stations to play Australian artists, and holding onto tickets for rescheduled gigs.

Performers and industry workers affected by the impact of coronavirus are also encouraged to share their story on the website I Lost My Gig. Its latest tally indicates that around 220,000 gigs or events have so far been cancelled, with associated lost income of more than $200 million.

Music SA general manager Lisa Bishop told InDaily earlier this week that musicians and venues were being “deeply impacted” by the ban on live gatherings.

“Many musicians survive from gig to gig, and their typical sources of other income include hospitality work and teaching in schools, so there is a compounded loss of work,” she said.

SA clubs and bars are also being badly affected by coronavirus, with the Gatsby Lounge on Grenfell Street announcing on Tuesday that it had decided to “to take a break until future notice as the COVID-19 is spreading”.

Rundle Street’s Sugar Nightclub has temporarily suspended all door charges but says it will remain open at reduced capacity for as long as possible.

“I’m worried about the club. I’m worried about staff. I’m worried about my partners. I’m worried about my own immediate future,” owner Driller Armstrong told CityMag this week.

He said if the club was forced to close, he hoped the government had some way to help it and other venues financially.

“I’ve already been in contact with other venue owners and our accountant to go through some ‘what if’ scenarios.

“There is no doubt that we will be among the hardest hit.”

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