After 3 years hard work building a community based, not for profit events centre at the southern Harbour site, RED C Events Centre is now required to re-tender for the building despite surviving COVID 19 Lockdowns and restrictions which have lasted for more than half the current tenure. In order to continue making bookings for concerts, weddings and other events we asked for an extension of the Licence Agreement (lease) with Council some time ago. It is now clear that it will be many years before the Crown Land site is developed, and we were hoping that the business would be allowed to continue providing benefits to the community until that time.
Some background to the situation: After asking months ago for an extension, we were given some requirements to meet prior to the application being considered. We were assured that senior Council staff would be making the decision on the Licence extension and that it did not have to go to a Council Meeting. We were then given a further list of works to complete which we have responded to. Then, on Tuesday this week, (3 days ago) we were informed that the Licence extension would now have to go to tender and calls for expressions of interest would be advertised today.
Despite being severely restricted by Covid regulations, which reduced our capacity by over 70%, we have only received one 50% rent reduction in one quarter from Council after several requests, with the rent actually increasing by 20% during COVID.
Despite our attempts at an early resolution in extending our tenure which expires in mid-September, Council has now resolved that the expressions of interest will close on 3 September. The decision then has to go to a Council meeting, a date for which has not yet been set. When we originally went through this EOI process it took several months for the process to be completed and for Council to make a decision. We were originally told that Council could only offer one year licences as Council has not yet produced a Crown Land Management Plan for the site, despite having four years to do so.
We would like to convey our dismay and shock over the change to the decision making format on our simple request to extend the licence during these uncertain and challenging times for the hospitality industry. This policy back flip has caused significant distress for the 35 staff and hundreds of musicians who will not know if they have continued employment for months leading up to Christmas. After 18 months of pain in the industry, this process is a significant blow to the dedicated staff and performers who have contributed so much.
The new process means that the Expressions of Interest released today will be followed by a final decision going to a future Council meeting. There is no date set for that decision. How is a business meant to operate under those conditions? Why were expressions of interest not advertised 6 months ago if this was to be the process? We have put a lot of hard work and money into building a community based, not for profit events centre, featuring and supporting local live musicians. We employ 35 staff generally and up to 150 people for larger events, will these people have jobs at Christmas? We feel our community effort has been dismissed by Council and the Covid circumstances, which have affected half of our tenure, have not been taken into consideration.
RED-C Events has been supporting the live music industry and community organisations throughout COVID 19 restrictions. Our pokie free environment offers a family friendly venue supporting local musicians and culture.
Whether or not we are successful in gaining an extension of our tenure, we strongly feel that the iconic site should be preserved for future generations of the Coffs Coast community and accessible to all, not an elite minority. Any future development on this site should focus on inclusive community values, events, music, culture, and eco-tourism, with no gambling to distract from that focus.
We call on the NSW Government and Coffs Harbour City Council to either provide a longer tenure for RED-C Events to continue its important input into the community or provide confirmation that this site will be developed for community use, not retirement units. We have organised a petition to that effect, available at RED-C and on our website www.redc.org.au.
What can you do? We ask all our supporters and patrons to please sign the petition here and make known to Council and the NSW Government your wishes.
As we will not know if or when our extension request may be granted, we will be organising a Potential Last Hurrah early September, so stay tuned for more details of that event!