Sunset bids for the Fly

SUNSET EVENTS has put in a bid to take over the Fly by Night Musicians’ Club.

On Wednesday the event promoters met with the Fly board and offered to take over the lease of the historic drill hall at full commercial rates.

Under the plan the not-for-profit Fly will retain a small section of the hall—known as the Fly Trap—to use for community events. Sunset will run three or four weekly concerts in the main hall.

Fly manager John Reid describes the bid as “audacious” but says he can’t comment further till the board meets again to consider its response.

He’s unhappy with how the deal made it onto the table, saying what had been no more than idle “coffee chat” recently between Fly director Greg Leaver at his X-Wray Cafe, Sunset boss David Chitty and mayor Brad Pettitt had snowballed too quickly. Mr Leaver is overseas.

Mr Reid says Sunset’s approach via Mr Leaver had never been minuted at board meetings, although just last month Sunset was discussed and a motion passed that it be able to hire the venue on the same terms as other businesses.

The Chook hadn’t heard back from Sunset before deadline.

Meanwhile, Mr Reid has trouble brewing on the Fly’s lease.

Last week the National Trust, which owns the building, told him not to book any concerts beyond September, when the lease runs out.

The club’s not being kicked out but under the Trust’s new governance rules, expressions of interest from other organisations must now be sought, rather than Fly’s lease simply being re-signed, as it has been for 28 years.

Mr Reid says the limbo threatens to bleed the club of cash: “Our last lease took six months to sign and approve,” he notes. “Where is our cash flow?”

Despite the WA government cutting the Fly’s rent subsidy he says the club is doing OK. He simply wants the EOI nullified and the lease renewed.

Mayor Brad Pettitt is concerned: “My fear for the Fly is that the EOI looks pretty open and you might end up with a furniture store.”

“One of the main objectives of the club is to ensure the continued existence of the club for the benefit of community activities and its use for developing musicians and artists. Another important aspect of the club is to encourage equal opportunity and access to musical and related arts activities. We’re grassroots.”

Mr Reid says he’s tried for more than a year to meet with the Trust, with no success.

Trust chief Tom Perrigo told the Herald he’s sympathetic but encourages the Fly to submit an EOI. Since the Fly’s last lease was signed seven years ago, the Trust has tightened its procedures and all leases are fair game for other applicants.

“If you did not do this, then someone would say ‘why did you give them that building’,” Mr Perrigo told the Herald. “It’s about good governance and transparency.”

He’s confident the process won’t necessarily affect the Fly’s revenue stream, adding a “commencement date” on the lease means it can operate without everything being formally signed first.

Mr Perrigo says the Trust will be looking for who can offer the best “social values” to the building and the community.

Mayor Brad Pettitt is concerned: “My fear for the Fly is that the EOI looks pretty open and you might end up with a furniture store.”

He has written to Mr Perrigo urging a quick resolution, at the same time flagging the “partnership” with Sunset.

“The City of Fremantle understands that there may be some opportunities for partnerships with the private sector to ensure the Artillery Drill Hall can continue to be used for cultural/music purposes,” the mayor wrote.

He hoses down suggestions of him having played a role in Sunset’s proposal: “I think it came from a conversation between the board members of the Fly and Sunset, that’s how it was described to me.”

He said the council was also looking at ways to support the Fly, such as giving its rates back to be used on youth programs.



2 responses to “Sunset bids for the Fly

  1. Brad Pettitt received a donation of $5000 from Rowan Chitty, brother of the MD of Sunset events (David Chitty) 4 months before the Fremantle Council vote.

  2. That’s correct, with Dr Pettitt declaring it on the council’s register of donations (it was for his 2013 mayoral election campaign). This does not constitute a conflict of interest under the Local Government Act and Dr Pettitt was entitled to take part in all discussions and votes on Sunset’s proposal. Well before that election, Dr Pettitt and other councillors had approved a tricky planning application submitted by Rowan Chitty for his home in North Fremantle, involving a wind turbine for which the council had no policy and some discretion over the planning codes. It could be that he was expressing his gratitude to Dr Pettitt and the council for their support, or he could simply agree with the green mayor’s aspirations, given that he’s previously advertised his building maintenance company as having a sustainable bent.

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