Earlier this year, the owners of The John Curtin Hotel announced the venue’s permanent closure.
Its landlords decided to sell following the expiry of its lease this month, with the team behind the venue sharing its fate on Instagram.
“The rumours are true,” they said. “It’s with an agonisingly sad heart that The John Curtin Hotel’s time on this earth will come to an end. The owners of the almost 150-year-old building have decided to sell, making way, most likely, for apartments.”
Now, the Russell family – its current publicans – inked a 10-year lease, saving the venue just a few days from its closure on Wednesday, 30 November.
The building was initially sold in April this year to an offshore investor, but final negotiations on a late lease offer have meant that a new lease has been signed, and the business is saved.
No gigs are scheduled beyond 30 November; the final gigs are now an official week-long celebration.
Publican Benjamin “Rusty” Russell said about today’s brilliant news: “This is a really exciting day for what has been a really stressful time since the building was sold. Not many people know this, but we have been running The Curtin on a year-by-year basis since first taking over in 2012, and taking on an extraordinary financial risk because I love what I do and I love the community we have built.”
Continuing on union-led campaigns to give The John Curtin Hotel extra heritage protection, Russell added, “I am hopeful that if the building is placed on the heritage register, we can work closely with Heritage Victoria to make the necessary changes to the venue so desperately needs. Then we can continue to host live music well into the future and continue to serve our wonderful community in the front bar for many years to come.”
After the announcement of the venue’s closure, Music Victoria invited any prospective developer to reach out ahead of making an offer “to talk through their interests and ideas and explore options that will secure the long-term future of the Curtin”, given its “cultural and social value” alongside the applications to protect the venue via heritage laws.
“We’re not anti-development, but we are determined to protect what’s special about the Curtin,” Music Victoria CEO Simone Schinkel said.
It looks like the Russell family’s reinstallation will also overturn the ‘Green Ban’ – a term coined in the ’70s, a group of construction unions will refuse to work on any redevelopment of the 150-year-old venue that doesn’t respect its history.
Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Luke Hilakari asserted, “this is about saving an important gathering place for the future, but it’s also about preserving our city’s heritage”.
“We need to ensure that The Curtin is still there in 150 years time,” he said.
“This Green Ban sends a clear message from Victorian workers: we will not stand by and let our precious, historic building be destroyed by international greedy developers.”
Long live The John Curtin Hotel!