Flying on empty

THE Fly by Night is facing a new challenge, with Fremantle council nervous about renewing its lease because of an outstanding debt.

The Fly’s lease over Victoria Hall runs out in March, but its board and managers will have to convince the council at a hearing next week that it’s turned the corner and can be economically sustainable. A large part of the debt is owed to the council for unpaid rent.

Treasurer Richard Skead told the Herald that under new management and with a tightened belt, the club had finally reined in the ballooning debt. Mr Skead was confident if they could convince the council to accept a payment plan the Fly would find its wings again.

He said as part of the lease negotiations they’d be trying to have the rent reduced.

New marketing manager Rob Walker said the Fly had been forced to accept a lease it couldn’t really afford when it moved to Victoria Hall in 2014 because it was the only way to secure a liquor licence.

“They had them over a barrel. They would have signed a million dollar a week lease if that was the only way of getting the liquor license,” he added.

“Being non-for-profit, thats how we keep the club alive; memberships and the bar.”

Mr Skead said there were agreed rent increases written into the lease, but audience numbers didn’t recover as quickly as anticipated after a forced shift from the old Drill Hall on Parry Street.

Rent increases

He says many people thought the club had simply folded, and it’s taken three years to get to the point promoters are now ringing the club to book acts and shows are selling out.

“The Fly’s built itself up; they’re putting up lots of good stuff, more shows, and the bar seems to have sorted itself out now,” Mr Skead said.

One of the issues facing the council is that individual directors of the Fly have taken on some of its debts personally, and the council is loath to further expose them.

Mr Walker says it’s been frustrating having the grim reaper hanging over the club when things seemed to be improving, but he understand’s the council’s predicament.

“They do want the club operating the way it did in its hey-day because we bring something to the community which is in their best interests, however on an ethical and moral standpoint they said they can’t allow the debt to keep accumulating.

“They’re essentially facilitating debt and they can’t do it.”

Mayor Brad Pettitt says it’d be heartbreaking if the Fly were to lose its recent momentum and he’s confident a solution can be found.

“I am really passionate about it, and it feels like they are getting some good runs on the board.”

Meanwhile the trio say the community have a great way to support the Fly; head to one of the national and international acts that are booked leading up to Christmas and enjoy a drink at the bar.

Its next big show is Tim Rogers on Friday, December 1. Pre-sale tickets are $52 and can be purchased on the club’s website.

by STEVE GRANT and EMILEE NEESON

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