They pulled it off.
In May, Shane Hilton and partner Leanne Chance, owners and operators of The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar, managed to raise, via crowdfunding, the $3 million that was required to even have a chance at saving iconic Melbourne music venue The Tote. And with that sum achieved, the new owners have confirmed ownership, securing the famous venue for future generations.
The sum, combined with The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar (essentially Hilton and Chance’s own savings and loans) was enough to enter negotiations for the two to take over the venue, which announced its sale back in March this year, with an asking price in the range of $6 to $6.6 million.
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But the road to signing the deeds was a long one, fraught with uncertainty.
“There’s a lot of nitty-gritty that we’ve got to get into before we finalise that contract,” said Hilton at the time. “But from our perspective, we’re 100 per cent confident we will make this happen.”
And after months of silence, they have.
“As the new custodians of The Tote, our sole aim is to facilitate a space in which all the amazing art that people create can be nurtured, supported and celebrated,” said Hilton and Chance in a statement today.
“We look forward to working with the present staff to make The Tote the best live music venue in the world while continuing to support all the amazing musicians who will continue to contribute to the amazing legacy of The Tote.
“We want to take a moment to encourage the wider community, the media, government, industry stakeholders and every other person in Australia to truly start listening to and supporting the world-class talent and culture that the independent music community in Australia continues to produce, in spite of all the difficulties we face.”
Former co-owner Jon Perring also expressed delight that The Tote will endure.
“We are very happy and excited to hand The Tote over to Shane and Leanne, whom
we know are so passionate about live music, “ he said in a statement. “It’s with great relief that we leave The Tote behind in full knowledge that it will continue to be Melbourne’s and Australia’s home of rock’n’roll.”
Every generation of Melbourne music-lovers seems to have its “save The Tote” moment.
In 2010, after a change to liquor licensing laws, the beloved pub was designated a “high-risk” venue, adding untenably to its insurance and security costs and closing the doors. “I’ve simply run out of money,” licensee Bruce Milne told the Age at the time. Less than two months later, an estimated 20,000 Melburnians turned out to protest the legislative changes at the Save Live Australian Music rally, many galvanised by the closure of The Tote.
Perring, Sam Crupi and the late Andy Portokallis eventually stepped up, reopening the doors six months later, in June 2010, and saving The Tote from certain doom.
Now, Hilton and Chance are the latest saviours of the Collingwood icon, and they’re hoping to put an end to the cycle.
“If we’re successful, we will be putting the building in trust with so much red tape, caveats and legal protection that will never be anything but a live music venue – let alone sold ever again,” they said in March, upon announcing their fundraising. “It will always be a live music venue for future generations of Melbourne bands.”
With additional reporting by Jo Walker and Nick Connellan.