Melbourne music and arts venue Bella Union has announced that it will close this October, after being in operation for 12 years.
In a statement, the Carlton establishment says its closure is the result of not being able to secure a new lease with the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC). The venue says its request for a five-year lease extension was rejected in December, and now a proposed extension until January 2018 has also been denied.
Bella Union’s operators say that the VTHC has told them that the venue’s continuing operation would interfere with a planned State Government restoration project, but the venue says it doesn’t believe it would be interfering.
“The closure is not what Bella Union management wants,” the statement reads.
“To date, there has been extremely limited consultation with existing tenants about the scope of work, overall timeline for completion, and potential short-term impacts on adjacent operations, including those of Bella Union.
“Given their landlord’s consistent lack of transparency, reliability and failure to respond to requests for support from their tenant, Bella Union must now put in place plans to vacate their tenancy by the end of October.
“Bella Union is hoping that they will all be keen to play a major part in making sure the old dame goes out in a long and spectacular blaze of entertaining glory.”
In a separate statement, the Trades Hall’s managing body says the closure of Bella Union is due to “significant repairs and restoration” of the building which are scheduled for between August 2017 and May 2018.
After that time, they say “new live music venue and creative arts space” will be established, which will be “affordable, physically accessible and welcoming to working people, including the low-paid”.
Bella Union will be closing on 22nd October. Read the venue’s statement in full, below.
Bella Union Statement
Bella Union will close in late October after more than 12 years of programming festivals, live performance and community events at Trades Hall in Carlton. The closure is not what Bella Union management wants.
Bella Union has been a major drawcard and hub of activity for the wonderfully historic but tired Trades Hall. Whilst Bella Union submitted a proposal for a five-year lease extension in October 2016, this was formally rejected by the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) in mid-December.
Bella Union has been in discussions with VTHC personnel over the last five months in the hope of securing an additional eight weeks through to the beginning of January 2018, allowing a full calendar year of programming for the venue and its regular promoters, artists, patrons and crew of 18 people.
However, Trades Hall Secretary Luke Hilakari told Bella Union representatives in late March that he was unable to provide such a guarantee, notwithstanding his acknowledgement that November and December represents a peak period for the hospitality and events sector.
Hilakari stated that Bella Union’s operations over this time may interfere with the planned $10 million State Government funded building restoration project announced in May 2016. We do not believe this is the case.
Whilst Hilakari said that the project schedule would mostly likely be known by late April to mid May 2017, sources today indicate that final building plans are yet to be approved.
To date, there has been extremely limited consultation with existing tenants about the scope of work, overall timeline for completion, and potential short-term impacts on adjacent operations, including those of Bella Union.
Given their landlord’s consistent lack of transparency, reliability and failure to respond to requests for support from their tenant, Bella Union must now put in place plans to vacate their tenancy by the end of October. All staff, long-standing promoters and artists who regularly perform at Bella Union have been notified.
Bella Union is hoping that they will all be keen to play a major part in making sure the old dame goes out in a long and spectacular blaze of entertaining glory.
Company founder and director Catherine Woodfield said “It is with great sadness that I must finally accept we are not welcome at Trades Hall. However, I am extremely proud of what our small but mighty team has achieved over the years. We have all worked hard to create a venue that embraces creativity, diversity and, perhaps most importantly, the possibility of experiencing joy.
Those values are most evident in the passionate and highly capable Bella Union crew. Their warmth and active investment in the success of the events we host has contributed significantly to many memorable nights for performers, patrons, promoters and event organisers alike. This simple, humanistic spirit is much greater than the physical space we’ve been taking up within this historic union building.”