Another Melbourne venue is set to close this month despite unwavering support from locals.

Iconic music venue the Bendigo Hotel, also known as ‘The Bendi’, has been at the heart of Melbourne’s metal scene for the last 14 years, hosting overseas acts as well as supporting up-and-coming artists.

The beloved Melbourne venue turned to social media to announce the news of its closing at the end of March, thanking supporters for their ‘unwavering love and support’ and citing financial difficulties as reason behind the heartbreaking decision to close.

During the first lockdown of 2020, owner Guy Palermo had campaigned for the state government to support live music venues, noting the importance of Melbourne’s music scene to the local economy.

In spite of being able to carry on through COVID, the venue’s rent has since risen by 30 per cent, while public liability insurance has skyrocketed by around 300 per cent since 2020.

Over-the-top insurance premiums brought Fitzroy’s Old Bar to implement a strict ‘no dancing while drinking’ policy, and have contributed to other closures, such as Brunswick East’s Whole Lotta Love Bar.

Bendi’s insurance premiums rose from $20,000 in 2020 to around $80,000 in 2024, in spite of the venue having made no public liability insurance claims in its 14 years.

At the same time, Palermo reported that foot traffic into the venue had decreased by close to 50 per cent on pre-COVID levels, while operating costs have increased by much the same amount.

“Alcohol keeps going up, there’s a beer tax – but we can’t put prices up any more, because punters don’t have money,” Palermo said.

“For example, if we had a sold-out show for 300 people, we would take 30 per cent less over the bar now than what we used to,” he continued.

Simone Schinkel, CEO of Music Victoria, said the organisation was looking at the possibility of getting venues access to the Victorian Management Insurance Authority to relieve the crisis, citing proof of market failure.

Meanwhile Colin Brook, Victorian Minister for Creative Industries, has stated that insurance industry regulation was a federal matter.

After a request from Independent Councillor Stephen Jolly, Bendigo Hotel’s local council is also unwilling to issue insurance to venues.

In the meantime, the Bendigo Hotel has confirmed that all shows scheduled up to 31 March will go ahead, and it is working with artists booked after that time to secure other venues. This includes the two-day mini festival Ungrateful Deadfest Brutality 2024, and mega gig Metal To My Ears.

The Bendi has also been offered free gigs by bands such as Mortiis, Forklift Assassins and Harlott in an attempt to lower the venue’s debt.

“This is probably one of the most well-known heavy metal bars in Australia, and the community is like-minded. It’s one of the most tight-knit communities you could find,” said Palermo.

“If they don’t want to keep losing live music venues, someone has to do something. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for others.”

Victorian small venue Trash Cult commiserated with the Bendi, stating “Venues are constantly facing challenges, and while the public perceives that there is a huge call for live music across Victoria, if you factor in all of the background operational costs along with a relatively small core of regular supporters, it is extremely difficult to manage.

“We are a niche regional venue, so we understand the struggle all too well, and we are absolutely thinking of everyone from The Bendi.”

Bendigo Hotel. Image: Instagram
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