Here at This is Radelaide, we’re pretty big fans of the Fringe (as you can probably tell). We love what it means for our city, and the huge injection of cultural vibrancy during the first few months of the year. Every year the Fringe gets bigger and better, both literally and figuratively. This year was no different, and in particular the now infamous Victoria Square Fringe hub The Royal Croquet Club got a little bit bigger and even better than before.
I, like thousands of other Adelaidians, had some amazing nights at the RCC throughout the Fringe, enjoying the brilliant program of entertainment, a variety of food and beverage offerings, and just some damn good vibes. My biggest disappointment was seeing the large amount of backlash the venue received from Adelaide's hospitality community, and I think it’s something we need to address.
Opposition given in the media essentially argues that it’s unfair the RCC is allowed to be so big because it takes business from ‘bricks and mortar’ business that operate year-round. Bar owners have complained that pop-up Fringe venues like the RCC (as well as the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony for that matter) cause a significant decline in their own businesses throughout February and March. The RCC has been the main target for backlash though, with claims that it is allowed to be ‘Adelaide’s biggest bar’.
What, I ask, is wrong with that? Why do we have a civil war between bar owners who at the end of the day are all trying to do the same thing; A) provide patrons a quality entertainment venue and B) make a profit. The directors of the RCC – Sam Weckert, Stuart Duckworth and Tom Skipper – are shining examples of ambitious entrepreneurs that our city thrives on. We're lucky to have so many ambitious young business owners here in Adelaide, so it's disappointing to see some lashing out against others.
A hotel owner – who owns several pubs in the city’s surround suburbs – was recently quoted complaining that the RCC was ‘being given an unfair advantage over traditional venues’. The several pubs he owns are great venues; they all have a loyal following of locals and are important parts of Adelaide’s pub culture. Here’s the thing though; they don’t really do anything new, do they? Anyone who knows this city knows that we like new. New bars, new restaurants, new ovals, new burgers… Of course we’ll always return to our favourites, but can you blame us for getting excited about something that is not only new, but is only here for 5 weeks of the year?
The hotel owner’s pubs don’t bring anything dramatically new to the table apart from slight changes to their menus, décor or entertainment line-up from time to time. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that- many venues and pubs rarely change. Of course, it’s hard to compete with a stellar location like Victoria Square, but suburban pubs will always have a fond place in our hearts.
In regards to complaints that the RCC would just be a giant bar, the venue easily proved that it was so much more than that. The southern side of the venue featured 3 tents boasting some of the Fringe’s highly acclaimed shows of the 2015 program. The northern end’s stage featured international acts as well as local artists throughout its occupancy. While the weekends saw it adopt a 'club' atmosphere, the RCC was open to people of all ages and interests for the majority of the week just like the Garden.
Pub and bar owners don’t complain every time somewhere new opens in the city. Already in 2015 we’ve seen some big venues open their doors such as Madame Hanoi, 2KW and Electra House, yet hotel owners aren’t complaining that those venues are taking their possible patrons. Competition in the hospitably industry is what helps bring us venues that are fresh and innovative. I should say that venues should be focused on being the best they can be, rather than bad mouthing others.
Would those complaining rather Adelaide not host the Fringe Festival? Would they rather we not have the world-acclaimed festival that brings thousands of tourists injecting money into our economy, as well as enriching the culture of our city? I didn’t think so.
Haters gon’ hate, and I can’t wait to see what the RCC brings to the Fringe Festival next year, as well as any other new venues we’re lucky enough to have pop up around Adelaide.