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Saving the Sando

The hotel was established in 1870 on King Street in Newtown, and has been in control of Townsend Hotel Management since May 2005. Recently it was forced into receivership with debts of $3.6 million to BankWest.

There has been an ongoing battle for the venue since 2011, with a failed bid to sell the building, including its lease, back at its target of $3 million during November 2011. The highest bid was $2.7 million. On July 16, 2011, BankWest called in a $3.2 million loan and issued a seven-day letter of demand. The loan was taken out to cover the hotel’s original mortgage with St George. There was also an extra $300,000 taken for renovations to the hotel. On August 9, 2011, the company was hit with a monthly interest rate of $63,500, which was previously $16,000. This was then reduced to $48,000, which is still a lot of money and left the hotel struggling to make payments.

Tony Townsend, the current owner of the venue, has said: “The Sando is a very marginal hotel/business. Its live music focus, poor gaming and no food are all the direct results of an ‘alternative style’ music venue approach.” Tony and his wife Kim have spent a lot of money over the past seven years trying to rebuild the once-strong iconic venue. Currently the venue looks like it’s losing the battle, not only failing to make bank payments, but with noise, council and police objections costing over $250,000 to date.

The Sando still has a place in the heart of many musicians. I hit various social media platforms to ask a few people what they thought of the situation. “Well, I don’t know what’s happening to the Sando, but come on, can we lose another venue? I really hope that the place is saved. A great venue run and staffed by really great people,” says Peter Black from Sydney punk rock group The Hard-Ons. Another comment was made by Chris Penny from a punk group called Glitter Canyon: “A venue should be somewhere you want to go, not somewhere you have to go. I think the era of glorifying ‘dive bars’ is coming to an end. The Annandale Hotel realised the importance of this a while ago, and began important renovations to the visual look of their bar with their ‘buy a brick’ campaign. If the Sando was to shut down it would be the death of live music in Newtown, and another nail in the coffin for Sydney live music.”

The hotel has established a committee to organise a rally and petition to save the Sando. A rally took place on August 26. It’s not yet clear how this will help a debt in the millions but the spirit is strong for die-hard supporters of the venue and people continue to push the cause. If the Sandringham is sold by receivers, it is possible the building will be broken up and resold for development. A recent change of zoning in Marrickville allows for four-storey buildings on King Street. Approximately 25 single-bed units could be built on the site.

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