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#1112889 - 08/11/16 03:29 PM Small Bars - Economically Viable ?  
Joined: Dec 2006
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niteshift Online content
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niteshift  Online Content
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Sydney, Australia
Hey All,

I was interested in the small bar scene in your town/city. Are there many, some or few ? And do you support them ?

Sydney used have quite a few, and provided venues for local musicians, and an interesting night life.

Then we had the introduction of pokie machines in pubs, and it was easier and cheaper for publicans to replace their stages with gambling lounges.

This lead to beer barns as the only place you could find local music, and combined with "lockout laws" which don't allow you enter a venue after midnight, to stop alchohol fueled violence, has put a serious dent in an industry which used to be worth $19 Billion per anum.

The local and state Governments tried to counter their own legislation by introducing and encouraging a Small Bar Licence, which is relatively cheap to purchase, at about $500 per yr. all up.

Problem is, it's for a maximum of 60 patrons, and you must also provide "suitable or substantial" food. Add to that, in some cases hefty rent and paying for 2x sets of 3-4 hrs live music per night, statutory taxes, levies and insurance, a licensed security guard, free iced water ( I kid you not ) and my "back of the used envelope analysis " suggests it's pretty hard going to make a buck.

The government wishes for a greater number of "small intimate venues", so I think it's well supported, but perhaps not economically viable.

There is a push to increase patron numbers to a max of 120, which I think would be much more economically viable. It's really due to the patrons, who will "pre-load", buy 1 drink if any, drink all your ice water, listen to the band, and then leave for the next venue.

So how and does it work in your city ? Is it worth the hassle and do you enjoy a small bar culture ?

cheers, niteshift


#1112895 - 08/11/16 05:12 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: niteshift]  
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PS - an ancillary note, there was a local musician who wrote a song about the pokies destroying both the live music industry, and lives in general, called "Blow Up the Pokies".

Live version .... just after it was released ....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4-4HRIuqMU&list=RDC4-4HRIuqMU#t=185

Studio version ....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ogj5ztTE0zw

And then 10 yrs later with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.... at the Opera House. I guess it takes 10 yrs for a songwriter to sway industry and government perception.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZAhbhfcrhg

The line "so the trains run on time" relates to the huge influx of gaming revenue which provided for a better train service.

You'll note, that when the song was first released, the clubs wouldn't hire him, and in some cases banned him, probably because he was speaking the truth.

I had the unique privilege of seeing this song performed live to an audience of 1 1/2 ( myself and my 2 yr old son on my hip ) on a vast sound stage pre-release. Upon completion, and fade out, my son started clapping. To which he got a thank you and a very gracious bow from the performer. The song moved me very much, and as they say.... out of the mouths of babes.....

cheers, niteshift

#1112899 - 08/11/16 05:37 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: niteshift]  
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Michael LeBlanc Offline
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Louisiana
hey Geoff,i used to be in the amusement biz,we'd set up those small and pretty big clubs with poker machines,juke boxes,pool tables and video games.Worked it about 8 years but as far as going to a bar and sit and drink,NO,i don't do that anymore.I can't afford a d.u.i. and i don't trust other drunks driving me home.Besides i think bars are mostly for singles,divorcee's and cheaters so that leaves me out.But i did my time in them in my early years.

#1112903 - 08/11/16 05:49 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: Michael LeBlanc]  
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Thanks for your input Mike,

Really appreciate it.

Yep, I know them ones, been in a few myself.

Would you go to a bar with live music and a high level of service ?

cheers, niteshift

#1112906 - 08/11/16 06:25 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: niteshift]  
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Michael LeBlanc Offline
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Louisiana
i'd take in a good band every now and then.High level of service is hard to come by over here,usually it's one barkeep between a bar full of drunks so you have to wait a bit for a drink,always order doubles!Fancy bars/lounges,i'm not in to that scene,i'm a laid back country boy who likes his jeans.And if the band is playing top 40 then count me out.I guess the venue i like most around here would be The House Of Blues or Tipitina's in New Orleans,small places with descent bands.

#1112910 - 08/11/16 06:37 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: Michael LeBlanc]  
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John Lawrence Schick Offline
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Great song and quite a talent he is Nite! There all good, but I like the Sydney Symphony Orchestra one the most.

Best, John smile

#1112918 - 08/11/16 08:19 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: John Lawrence Schick]  
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Wyman Lloyd Offline
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Missouri
I'd think a small bar would find it tough going here. There's some fair sized restaurant-eating places that serve drinks or have a bar and would be stiff competition I'd think. That and there
are some well establshed small bars here already
We're only a city of 20 some thousand though and probably not a very good example

#1112919 - 08/11/16 09:12 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: Wyman Lloyd]  
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Sydney, Australia
Hey Mike,

Understand what you're saying. When I used to play, then it was hot sweat and dirty and full on. And then afterwards, a nice dive bar, with smoke filled rooms and a relaxed vibe.

In between all of that, I used to go sit in the fancy bars of the best hotels.... why ?, because always appreciated the piano player, being one myself. It took me to another world.

I was sort of known as a rough guy, but could sit there and appreciate the music. One well known player, whilst playing, asked me to play one night. I had all the rock chops, but only knew one song suitable for the venue.

So, I played it. It went Ok, and then this great player invited me over to his place, and taught me how to play the blues .

Why ? Perhaps he saw I was interested, in both his own playing and my own.

So, I played, and we talked about music in general. His words were "you play for an AUDIANCE and that's your main concern. You don't do it for YOU, you do it for the audience in which you play for. If you're a real musician, you can wing it anywhere. Great advice.

Hey John, yeah pretty cool being a "banned person" 10 yrs previous, and then playing with the Symphonic is something. I knew the arranger would come out in you. smile

Hey Wy, yep I understand the small town mentality, and that has come from a previous isolation. With folks doing what they're doing these days, I'd bet if you looked around your town, there's be some fine musicians just looking for somewhere to play at a venue near you.

cheers, niteshift

#1112927 - 08/12/16 01:02 AM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: niteshift]  
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Colin Ward Offline
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Saint Petersburg. FL
There are a lot of small bars here in the St. Pete area. My friend's is a "listening room" aimed at real music lovers. He does OK as long as there are butts in seats which is mostly dependent on the music and how it draws. The musicians don't get paid much - usually on the weekends they get the door and during the week they get tips and a small paycheck. His place holds 100 but a lot of the time, he has less than 60. He doesn't have a security guard but he does have a soundman/woman and someone at the door when there is a cover charge. It's tough to make a living.

The other bar I am familiar with is a tiki hut on the beach. It holds about 60 and stays busy with tourists (been there a long time). They have a band every night and people keep coming for blues night on Mondays or bluegrass on Sunday, etc. I think it's a goldmine but depends heavily on location and moving a lot of booze.

We also have a lot of small breweries (about 15 or more in the county). They are very popular with the craft beer crowd. Some have music, others not. I think the market is close to saturation but people spend a lot on a good home made beer.

I don't know what a pokie is but it sounds like a slot machine and we basically don't have those except on Indian reservations and in Las Vegas. Laws about the hours a place can stay open, etc. are not a big factor as long as it is the same everywhere (and you can't drive 5 miles to another town and get around them).

I think the bar/restaurant business is very difficult because the barrier to entry is low and everybody thinks he can open one and make a killing. 50% don't make it a year.


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#1113025 - 08/13/16 06:12 AM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Hey Colin,

That's some great info and advice. Thanks mate !

cheers, niteshift


#1113026 - 08/13/16 07:33 AM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: niteshift]  
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Every bar here is a small bar and a struggling bar. Most local musicians sing and play for fun or free beer.

Vic


It's never too late? Yes it is, so do it now.

If, given time, a monkey can write the complete works of Shakespeare maybe there's hope for me.
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#1113035 - 08/13/16 11:37 AM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: niteshift]  
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90 dB Offline
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Florida
We live in the country, so most of the bars around here are redneck beer bars. Live music? Why should the bar owner pay a band when they can get a karaoke jock for 1/3 the price? Karaoke killed live music around here, and I don't think that will change.

When we lived in Miami, there were dozens of places to play, but even with fewer places to play, we prefer the country.

As for the viability of small bars – in a big city or college town, sure. Here in the Sticks, not so much.


Regards,

Bob

#1113495 - 08/18/16 02:13 PM Re: Small Bars - Economically Viable ? [Re: 90 dB]  
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Hey Vic and Bob,

Thanks for the comments guys.

Heck ! From one side of the globe to the other, it all sounds a bit dismal. frown

Damn shame, as in my day, that's where you learned your chops, and if you weren't half bad and could attract a crowd, then you moved on to bigger venues, and the top guys went on to play nationally and internationally.

Is there even a career path anymore for those who are serious ?

Maybe it's "I got discovered on Utube " grin

cheers, niteshift


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