Tuesday afternoon saw thousands of people take to the streets of central Melbourne to protest new liquor laws which greatly affects live music in the city. The protest march organised by a group named S.L.A.M (Save Live Australia’s Music), was a recreation of the scene from AC/DC’s music video “Long Way to the Top”, originally filmed in central Melbourne 34 years ago, to promote awareness and show the Victorian State Government that local musicians are going to suffer under the new law changes designed to curb alcohol abuse and violence.
The new law, which came into place on New Years day puts amplified and live music in a high risk category for liquor licensing, that coupled with most venues being open after 1am required the venues to add security and apply for late night licenses. The high risk category is for venues deemed to be prone to alcohol-related violence. As a result of this iconic live music venue The Tote, in Collingwood, was forced to close its doors last month, blaming the new laws as the reason. The venue itself could not afford the licensing fees because it was labeled as part of the high risk category. The Tote was also required to employ a minimum of two security guards for 4 hours minimum in addition to the CCTV requirements which came in midway through 2009. As a venue that gave many bands their first shot at playing live, the venue realised it could not afford to open anymore when all the factors were joined. Many other venues across the city have cancelled live music shows to avoid ending up in the same situation as The Tote.
The day before the protest the State Government signed an accord with live music representatives from groups FairGo4LiveMusic, SLAM, and Music Victoria, which eased some of the restrictions under the new laws. This has put a stop to the need for the additional security unless the venues are recommended to by the police as having demonstrated a need. The accord notes the State Government and Liquor Licensing Victoria agreed to “undertake research” into the high risk label put on live music venues, however it has not removed the label completely. This is still of a concern to those involved in the live music scene. The accord will be due for review in 12 months time.