Music

Melbourne loses record store due to “council restrictions and revenue-gathering permits”

The owners of North Melbourne comic/record store and café Wooly Bully – New Zealand-born couple Mitch Marks and John Douglas – are winding down the much-loved shop, citing residential noise complaints, “council restrictions and pointless revenue-gathering permits” as reasons for the closure.

The announcement comes only a day after national lobby group SLAM reiterated the real threat Victorian venues continue to face due to a lack of substantial legislative support. SLAM’ s most recent statement was made in light of news that a 13-story residential development has been proposed on a site opposite Melbourne’s Corner Hotel. While not currently posing a direct threat, it could in the future.

Under the current system, if the building was to go up and a resident did in fact complain, there’d be nothing to protect the Corner from heavy fines, reduced trading hours, or sound-proofing at a potentially prohibitive cost. While these situations are purely hypothetical at the moment, they mirror the problems that have lead to the closure of Wooly Bully.

A recent hub of North Melbourne’s Errol Street, Wooly Bully could hardly be described as a “live music venue” however, it has hosted a regular slate of in-store performances, including a store-opening one by Super Wild Horses and, more recently, Taco Leg’s album launch during last year’s Maggot Fest.

Speaking with our Sister site Mess+Noise co-owner Mitch Marks explained that it was these occasional events that caused them the most issues. “Our in-stores were a great promotional tool, but we were having to have each one strictly policed by council (despite them agreeing with us informally on most issues) because of one miserable resident. We also got knocked back for our recent [temporary] liquor license and I had reason to believe any permanent liquor application would be a case of over a year’s worth of fighting.

“Council restrictions and pointless revenue-gathering permits, plus their continuing dedication to listening to that one squeaky wheel, is probably the biggest problem we’ve faced,” she continued. “They promote us in all their media channels/reports/publicity shots, then tell us we’re not allowed to have lots of customers at once!”

The news of Wooly Bully’s imminent closure comes less than a week out from SLAM DAY. The national event being held on February 23 is scheduled to commemorate a 2010 rally in which 20,000 people marched through the streets of Melbourne in support of live music. With news of The Annandale Hotel’s financial problems in Sydney emerging this week and Adelaide’s politicians voting on their state’s Small Venue Licence on Wednesday, it couldn’t come at a better time.