Castlemaine Venues Unite Against ‘Pokies Barn’
News posted Tuesday, July 17 2012 at 12:00 PM.
Related: The Bridge Hotel, Theatre Royal.
It’s been open for only a few months, but Castlemaine’s latest venue The Bridge Hotel (pictured) already has a fight on its hands.
The Bridge and the iconic Theatre Royal have banded together against a proposed 800-capacity “pokies barn”, which they believe will threaten original live music and touring in the regional Victorian town. A group called The Maryborough Highland Society are reportedly planning to convert the Railway Goods Shed in the centre of Castlemaine into a large-scale entertainment venue with 65 new poker machines.
Theatre Royal owner David Stretch said that while he has no issue with “healthy competition”, the proposed development has the potential to undermine the development of a growing local music scene. The Royal has provided live entertainment to Castlemaine residents since 1854, recently hosting a performance by The Dirty Three.
“While I cannot imagine many, if any, of the artists we book at our venue would ever consider playing at this proposed pokies barn, this new venue will undoubtedly suck millions out of the local economy and seriously compromise the viability of not only our business but many businesses involved in an already challenging local hospitality and entertainment sector.”
Those calls were echoed by The Stabs’ Brendan Noonan, who operates the Bridge with former Old Bar/Northcote Social Club manager Kat Hamilton. Acquired by owners of Melbourne’s Old Bar, The Bridge has hosted the likes of The Toot Toot Toots and Courtney Barnett since opening its bandroom earlier this month.
“I’m a strong believer in the ‘precinct effect’ when it comes to music and arts venues,” said Noonan in a statement. “The more the merrier I say. The proliferation of music and the arts enrich a community and strengthen the cultural fabric of a town. Poker machines on the other hand achieve exactly the opposite.
“A lot is made of the apparent ‘economic benefit’ to a community from poker machine revenue but the fact is any ‘economic benefit’ will be paid for by gambling losses, largely from problem gamblers, many of whom are among the most disadvantaged in our community.”
Both venues, along with concerned members of the community, will challenge the development at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in August.