Last drinks at The Tote!


It’s last drinks at the Tote. This weekend.

I know it’s sudden. I didn’t plan it to be like that.

I can’t afford to keep fighting Liquor Licensing. The “high risk” conditions they have placed on the Tote’s license make it impossible to trade profitably. I can’t afford the new “high risk” fees they have imposed. I can’t afford to keep fighting them at VCAT. I can’t renegotiate a lease in this environment.

So, come into the Tote this weekend to say farewell to the sad staff and to feel the sticky carpet for the last time.

I don’t believe the Tote is a “high risk” venue, in the same category as the nightclubs that make the news for all the wrong reasons. Despite being on a rough little corner of Collingwood, the Tote has had very, very few incidents. As a local police officer once said, “The Tote’s the quietest pub in the area.” (!).

It’s not dumb luck that the Tote has escaped serious violence. I believe the business has been run responsibly. People don’t come to the Tote to fight. They come because they have a passion for music and love to be in an historic venue that reeks of that same passion.

The Tote is (sorry, was) an important cornerstone of Melbourne’s rich and diverse music community. It’s too late to save the Tote but not too late to try and save other inner city venues that are feeling the same pressures.

I know the sudden closure affects a lot of people. Most importantly, the hard-working staff that are being forced onto the dole queue. And the bands and artists that have had their gigs pulled from under them.

Anyway, I don’t want to get maudlin (or viciously angry). The era of the Tote is over. If you love the place, come and have a beer with us this weekend.

Bruce Milne

@ Mess+Noise @ The Age | Save The Tote | Iconic Melbourne music venue The Tote will close its doors for the last time this weekend. License Nominee Bruce Milne explains why to Bill Birtles from ABC News. ABC Melbourne. [Head bang : rob.]

The Tote closes: Licensing over-regulation kills another iconic venue, Ben Eltham | Licensing Killed The Pub Rock Star, Mel Campbell.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
This entry was posted in Collingwood, Death, History, Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Last drinks at The Tote!

  1. THR says:

    That’s sad news. When I was a younger lad, one of the few places my band could get gigs was the Tote. There were times we’d be paid in drinks. Who the hell thought the Tote was ‘high risk’?

  2. @ndy says:

    It appears that the bean-counters at the Liquor Licensing Board deemed it so. And let’s face it: they have a point. The continued existence of The Tote as a live venue meant that there was an extremely high risk developers could not purchase the property and turn it into something else. Say, yuppie apartments. And if yuppies aren’t provided with expensive inner-city residences, there’s a high risk they’ll be less happy than they would otherwise be.

    On the other hand, there’s a simple solution. Bruce — with the possible assistance of punters prepared to donate so many thousands of dollars — could hire Mick Gatto to arbitrate and mediate with the Board on his behalf (preferably while meeting its representatives at a Lygon Street restaurant). The Board would undoubtedly not only reverse its position upon leaving the meeting, but remark upon what a gracious host Mister Gatto is, what a delightful little pub The Tote has always been, and undertake to do their best to ensure live performances continue to be a hallmark of the pub for another 30 years.

  3. @ndy says:

    PS. Looks like several thousand people will be attending some kinda ‘protest’ on Sunday @ 6pm. Presumably, a large enough number of people — or media depicting a large enough number of people — attending may alert a government adviser as to a) the negative consequences of placing live venues with a history of trouble-free events in danger of closing thus b) ensuring that when other venues argue their case before the Board, they receive a hearing. Maybe.

  4. Anon says:

    Let’s hope no idiot decides to start a punch on/knife on at this protest.

  5. @ndy says:


    The possibility is rather slim. After all, it’s The Tote, not QBH (or Crown Casino).

  6. @ndy says:


    I encourage you all to come down to the Tote Hotel this Sunday 17th January at 6pm to protest in favour of live band venues in Melbourne.

    The State government is trying to be seen to be doing something about alleged rising violence surrounding pubs and clubs in the City and inner suburbs.

    The real violence in and around the Crown Casino/King St and the issue of irresponsible serving of alcohol is an untouchable for a Government addicted to pokie taxes and being friendly to bosses. Instead they have gone for stunts such as successfully pressuring Yarra Councillors (with the exception of the Socialist Party) to ban public drinking and thereby push Aboriginal people from Smith St to other out of the way parts of the area.

    Other State Government stunts including using their compliant Liquor Licencing Commission to raise licencing fees for smaller venues such as the Tote, which (along with a new requirement for a minimum of two security staff) is the reason being given by Tote management for their closure.

    The State Government imply the Tote and Collingwood in general is like South Central Los Angeles – yet they provide no evidence for this. In fact this is a campaign of fear and is not based on reality.

    In my capacity as Councillor for Collingwood and the surrounding suburbs, I have been in contact with Tote management today, and we are meeting during the Sunday event and again on Monday. I spoke on air on RRR’s Tony Biggs (Bigsy) show today and we are also meeting to discuss the issue on Sunday.

    I have also spoken to the Yarra Mayor, Jane Garrett, to get full Council support.

    We need common sense with the security issue – for example why are two security guards necessary when the Tote has a performer strumming a guitar on a quiet afternoon?

    Why is the Tote facing increases in licencing fees, while more dangerous and bigger venues like the Crown Casino get exemptions from the 2am lockout and the OK for 150 more ‘gaming’ tables?

    What can Yarra Council do to help? I am pushing for Fitzroy Town Hall to be transformed into a music, arts and culture hub for the area. We need to bring back the Brunswick St festival. We need to lobby hard to stop the State government from picking on smaller venues and driving out live band venues from the area.

    Come on down on Sunday.


    Stephen Jolly, Councillor City of Yarra, Langridge Ward (Socialist Party).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.