Government grant not enough to save Port Adelaide nightclub

Port Adelaide venue Confession will cease operating after this weekend and become a private venue for hire due to economic pressures, with the owner saying he will return a just-announced government grant intended to help keep doors open.

Apr 10, 2024, updated Apr 10, 2024
Confession night club is one of the newer kids on the block. It opened in 2023, inside an 1850s church. Photo: Supplied.

Confession night club is one of the newer kids on the block. It opened in 2023, inside an 1850s church. Photo: Supplied.

Nightclub Confession was named as one of 12 Adelaide venues to receive funding as part of the state government’s See it LIVE grants program just two days ago, but yesterday told followers on social media that it would be closing as a public nightclub after this weekend.

Confession, owned by Port Adelaide disability advocate Shane Hryhorec, cited rising operating costs, wages, new liquor taxes and energy costs as the main reasons behind the venue’s demise.

It said it would remain open for private events and functions, but that it was not feasible to continue operating as a nightclub in the near future.

Confession only opened on a full-time basis in September last year. Prior to that, Hryhorec used the space for Fringe shows from 2020 onward.

“We opened to the public in September and then shortly after opening we noticed that the economy wasn’t going in the direction that we would have liked it to go,” Hryhorec told InDaily.

“We weren’t getting as many patrons and the patrons that we were getting their spend had significantly decreased, and we were seeing some red flags.

“The last six months has been up and down, with a lot more down than up.”

He said the venue lost money during the 2024 Adelaide Fringe period too: “Our busiest period”.

“We realised if this is what we are like during what should be our busiest period, then what’s it going to be like once we go through winter,” he said.

“We have made a tough decision to wait out the storm and to hunker down and close the venue for weekly offerings and wait for the economy to improve.

“I’m very lucky compared to many other venue owners in that I actually own the building, so we can shut up for six months, even two years if we want to. It still costs us to do that but it costs us less to do that than it does to operate at a loss in the hope things will change.”

Disability advocate Shane Hryhorec. Photo: Shane Hryhorec.

Hryhorec told InDaily today that a $23,000 state government grant might have kept the venue going for a “couple of months”, but as the grant was only for the payment of live music costs such as artist fees, crew fees and equipment hire it was not able to address the main cost pressures the space was facing.

He said he would not be accepting that money given his latest announcement.

Confession was one of 12 venues in Adelaide that were announced as recipients of grant funding via an extension of the state government’s See it LIVE grants program.

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“It can only go towards entertainment so what happens with the enormous energy costs?” said Hryhorec.

“Entertainment works out to be less than 15 or 20 per cent of our actual operating costs, so it would probably keep us going for a couple of months… but the risk for us to operate and just lose that money was not going to be a viable option.

“We’ve contacted them and let them know that they can have it back,” he said, noting that the venue was yet to receive the money.

InDaily asked Arts Minister Andrea Michaels about Confession’s predicament, and she said: “The venue has notified the MDO this morning about their announced closure and we are working with them to best to understand how the approved funding can support their future plans to host live music or if we need to reallocate. We will continue to talk with the venue owner about future programs if they choose to reopen in the future.”

“I understand how challenging it has been for live music venues recently and the Malinauskas Government has continued to provide support since being elected. Confession was successful in its recent application to the See it Live Music Activation Fund for which funding of $23,000 has been approved,” Michaels said.

“They were notified that they were successful through this program last Thursday.

“They have since been liaising with the MDO regarding the funding agreement with correspondence as recent as yesterday.”

Hryhorec said the disabled community in Adelaide would be worse off without his venue.

“We’re one of the only venues in South Australia that has a wheelchair accessible stage and a DJ booth, we have performers with disabilities that will no longer have work and nowhere else to go because of the lack of accessibility,” he said.

“That also applies to our patrons because we’ve got patrons that rock up in power wheelchairs, blind, visually impaired, deaf that have been calling our venue home.”

Confession is the latest in a string of nightclub closures in recent months, including Super California, Fat Controller, Enigma Bar, 1000 Island and Wnderland.

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