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The Newtown Social Club is turning into a mini-golf bar, but the music may keep playing

Alyx Gorman

In late January, Newtown Social Club announced that they would shut their doors on April 23. The live music venue has inhabited the bones of the Sandringham Hotel for the last three years, playing host to local and international bands. In a statement on Facebook, they said: “Whilst the live music part of the business was a resounding success, the current regulatory climate in Sydney and the inherent challenges therein have made it unsustainable.”

Last week Fun-Lab announced that they were in the process of taking over the Sandringham site, which would be developed into a mini-golf bar, similar to their Brisbane property Holey Moley.

Fun-Lab is a private equity backed entertainment company which owns and operates Strike bowling clubs and Sky Zone trampoline parks. Maria Griffen, Fun-Lab’s sales and marketing manager told Time Out: “We're in the final stages of finalising and have entered into a term sheet to deal with purchase and lease.”

In an interview with The Brag announcing their intention to take over the venue, Fun-Lab’s CEO Michael Schreiber mentioned plans to keep some live music programming within the venue. Griffen expanded on that promise to Time Out, saying: “Holey Moley isn’t trying to be the next Newtown Social Club, but we do understand the importance of live music in Newtown and Sydney. It’s early days for Holey Moley, and we're still very much in planning mode, but we're aiming to work locally, with our contacts in the music industry and within our businesses to figure out how and when live music can be run in venue. At this stage we are thinking monthly live music nights, comps for local artists to come play and local DJ sets every weekend.”

Richard Adamson of Young Henrys, who serves as president of the Newtown Liquor Accord and is a Newtown Precinct Business Association committee member says: “My greatest fear is this venue gets lost as a pub and a place for live music. I’m pleased to hear it’s being taken as an ongoing concern and it’s not being turned into apartments or the like.”

Griffen describes Holey Moley as “a mash-up of art, music, [a] bar [and] mini-golf. It is irreverent, off-the-wall fun with a dose of nostalgia. Our guests can expect good quality and good value fun, where they can socialise with friends in a whole new way.”

Adamson presses that Fun-Lab have on their hands “one of the best sounding rooms for that capacity in Australia. There was a lot of work that was put into that to get it to that level of quality, and it’d be a real shame if that was lost to the music community.”

Griffen says that Fun-Lab have already hired “market research and F&B consultants achieve a venue specifically suited to and hopefully embraced by Newtown. Each hole has been designed and curated by our creative director, embracing local community and culture.”

Newtown is one of Sydney’s most vocal and politically active neighbourhoods, with residents and businesses rallying around issues like WestConnex and the changing nature of nightlife in the area. Recently, residents quashed plans to host Burgerpalooza Festival in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park, fearing it would set a precedent for hosting commercial events in the community-owned space.

However, the area is changing. Recently Merivale took over the Queens hotel, turning it from a fairly shady pub to a glossy public bar, with a high-end Chinese restaurant perched atop it.

“Traditionally we’ve seen a lot of support for independently owned and run Newtown businesses,” says Adamson. “But there have been larger businesses and chains coming into the area. I think the key to their success will be engaging in the local community and hiring the right operators. People that are already part of the community, who have lived and worked in the area for some time.”

At this stage, the Newtown Social Club site is set to reopen under Fun-Lab’s management in June of this year.

Love music? Check out where in Sydney to see free live music every night of the week. 

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