Just yesterday it was announced that one of Australia’s most beloved music venues, Melbourne’s Ding Dong Lounge, is set to close in only a matter of weeks. Of course, regulars and music-lovers alike were quick to question why, but now a former employee of the famed venue has opened up about what went on behind the scenes, offering some insight as to why the Victorian hotspot is shutting its doors.
Billy Walsh, the venue’s owner, released a statement yesterday which announced the closure of Ding Dong Lounge, and outlined some of the factors that went into the decision.
“We’ve always been a venue that presented unique offering in the Melbourne CBD and people embraced us,” Walsh explained. “We didn’t big note ourselves, we tried to be hospitable, caring and fair, although, there have been times when we struggled to make ends meet. We received wide support from all quarters, including band managers, agents, touring companies, media, and most importantly the musicians themselves. Our staff really cared about the welfare of our customers and we stayed true to ourselves.
Despite having hosted the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age, Melvins, Ed Sheeran, The White Stripes, Leonard Cohen and much more over its 15 year lifespan, Bill Walsh explains that it’s been hard to remain a unique location these days.
“It’s an open secret that venues in the Melbourne CBD have been struggling lately due in part to the broader proliferation of similar clubs and bars across the inner north and combination of the heartbreaking homeless issue and ongoing late night violence in the CBD the time is right to pull up stumps,” he explains.
But now, former employee Jacqui Picone has posted an open letter onto social media in which she explains what went on during her time there, including poor working conditions, and the fact that many bands who perform there aren’t paid.
“The entire year and a half I worked there I was paid $20 an hour,” Ms. Picone explained. “The manager barely earned more. Always in cash. More often than not the manager struggles to pay staff and almost always is unable to fully pay himself. Sometimes I would be taxed, other times not. When I asked for my group certificate this year, the owner asked for my tax file number, so I’m doubtful the tax office ever saw any of that money.
“Some weeks we wouldn’t have tap beer,” she continues. “Some weeks we wouldn’t have vodka or gin. Often the top shelf spirits we have are cheaper spirits funnelled into the bottles by the owner – I’ve watched him do it.
“It’s Melbourne’s worst kept secret that bands don’t get paid at Ding Dong Lounge. At least 3 days a week staff are fielding phone calls from angry bands or suppliers chasing money owed to them from the owner and we are expected to lie and say he’s not there when he’s sitting at the bar, right in front of our faces.”
RE: Ding Dong Lounge Closing pic.twitter.com/GBWCGNjgu3
— Jacqui Picone (@jacquipicone) December 18, 2017
“We have gone through 2 fantastic, talented band bookers in the last year and a half because they are expected to work despite not being paid for weeks. Not only that, they are crippled in their ability to book bands because agencies don’t want to send their bands places they won’t get paid. The blame is always handed to the booker.”
“I am sick and tired of the excuses and lies being peddled by the owner because he won’t own up to his own failings. The current bar manager and staff are the only reason that sorry excuse for a venue has stayed alive as long as it has and they should be applauded for the landslide of bullshit they’ve weathered.
“Yesterday the owner announced that Ding Dong Lounge is closing on January 13th, and he didn’t even have the guts to tell the staff.”
Ding Dong Lounge are yet to comment on the statement made by Ms. Picone.