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Another Beloved Queensland Venue Has Closed Down

30 November 2022 | 8:27 am | Mary Varvaris

"As some insight into how bad things were - one of the events that we did host was a Triple J most played act concert in January had a 60% non-attendance rate."

(Source: Supplied)

It's the news nobody wants to hear after two years of COVID restrictions hitting live music spaces the hardest. Another venue is shutting its doors, and this time it's NightQuarter on the Sunshine Coast.

In a post shared on social media, owners revealed the shattering news. "Our independently owned live music venue and entertainment destination, NightQuarter has closed its doors. After opening mid-pandemic, two years of trading through Covid restrictions and the bleak after effects that have beleaguered our industry, we have made the call to close," co-owner Michelle Christoe wrote. 

It's a devastating call made by people who sold their home and put it towards NightQuarter to save the business. Due to low attendance rates and night markets becoming volatile following everything related to COVID, there was no other choice. Christoe then provided background behind the decision to close doors.

The 1,500-capacity venue built from shipping containers was supposed to open its doors in March-April 2020; NightQuarter previously ran similarly on the Gold Coast from 2015 to 2019. The COVID lockdowns began, and the venue couldn't trade until November 2020. As the space hadn't operated before then, Christoe wasn't eligible for Jobkeeper grants.

"NightQuarter Sunshine Coast finally opened on November 6th 2020. The response from the community and the live music industry was strong. The venue won the 'Best Regional Venue' at the Queensland Music Awards twice and was embraced by national tours being booked and the community showing up to welcome the new space. 

"However, we were challenged by ever-changing Covid restrictions and a high level of scrutiny for a new venue from Queensland Health and Liquor Licensing."

She added, "While the outlook was positive for the entertainment industry nationwide in late 2021, the Omicron Covid wave over the holiday period at the start of the year dramatically impacted consumer confidence and resulted in the cancellation of 11 concerts in early 2022 at NightQuarter.

"As some insight into how bad things were - one of the events that we did host was a Triple J most played act concert in January had a 60% non-attendance rate. This was a terrible outcome for everyone from the customers, to the artists, the promoter and the crew but also for the venue that makes income, not from ticket sales, but from food and beverage sales made during concerts.

"The venue then flooded in the February 2022 storms resulting in further cancellations and damages. It's since been a long wet winter and we have closed or cancelled so many times it feels like a bad dream.

"The issues facing the embattled live music industry have been well publicised with large festivals and tours cancelling, insurance costs rising, artists cancelling tours and venues closing. We have lived it and it feels like you can't get a break no matter where you turn."

She ended the post by writing, "The Sunshine Coast, which always trended late for ticket sales pre-Covid, has been rebounding at an even slower pace than other regions. Events at NightQuarter for the back half of the year have been selling last minute and at much lower-than-expected sales.

"Compounded with cost increases across the board and debilitating staff shortages, we have been unable to deliver events to the standard we expect from ourselves."

NightQuarter faced a highly publicised closure last year following alleged COVID-19 safety breaches.

"Shutting a music venue down is a dangerous precedent for our industry already struggling with capacity restrictions and onerous COVID safety requirements. The restrictions are inconsistently applied across industries with standing, cheering and crowding common at sporting events. This leads to confusion and frustration from patrons when live music venues have different strict rules," Christoe said when the venue reopened.

"Every single time we had a show cancelled or postponed; it doesn't just affect our venue. It affects bands, managers, booking agents, crew, hospitality workers, and the list goes on."

Read the full NightQuarter announcement here.