FOGHORN Brewhouse owner Shawn Sherlock fears Newcastle City Council’s proposed strategy to safeguard the live music industry will be doomed to fail unless NSW licensing laws follow suit.
Momentum is building in the battle to protect Newcastle’s live music scene from the encroachment of high-rise residential developments.
Sherlock, who formerly worked as a musician, has taken a keen interest in the developments.
When his King Street brewery and restaurant opened in April 2015, council approved a development application for acoustic live music, without drums or amplified bass. Due to the size and lack of air-conditioning in the venue, Sherlock was also given approval to open his eastern windows, which face a car park, while the music was playing.
However, FogHorn’s liquor license from Liquor and Gaming NSW forbade live music and entertainment at the venue without all windows and doors being closed. Due to the heat, Sherlock was forced to cancel live music during the summer months.
“We thought surely windows being opened is more of a council issue, more so than a specific liquor licensing issue and thinking the DA would trump that, but in fact, the liquor license trumps the DA,” Sherlock said.
“So someone in Sydney is putting conditions on a venue they have never visited.”
FogHorn generally employs soloists or duos on Friday and Saturday evenings, finishing between 10pm and 10.30pm and has also curated a talent night on Tuesdays, which is over by 9.30pm.
Sherlock said he has received noise complaints from residents in an apartment block across the road, despite all the music being acoustic.
“We’re a restaurant, so we’re not looking to have hard rock in the place anyway,” he said. “We’re not looking to blow people out of the venue. But music is a big part of what we wanted to do with the venue.”
Sherlock supports council’s push to formulate a live music strategy, but said there was more to the issue than protecting existing music venues.
He said regulations needed to change so smaller venues could support local musicians.
“I want people to understand it’s not just a simple case of really loud late-night entertainment upsetting residents, it’s an issue of anybody doing anything in the inner city,” he said. “It’s getting that crazy.”
While you’re with us, did you know The Herald is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local news - sign up here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.