Musicians take over a favourite venue

Dunedin musicians (fromleft) Tom Bell, Jake Langley and Mike McLeod have taken over Chick's Hotel...
Dunedin musicians (fromleft) Tom Bell, Jake Langley and Mike McLeod have taken over Chick's Hotel in Port Chalmers. Photo supplied.
Sometimes it's the size of a venue that enhances the magic of a live show. And sometimes, it's the heritage and history of the venue.

While Dunedin can't claim an historic 100 Club such as the one in Oxford, and the stadium certainly pales in comparison to the behemoth of Wembley, this city is home to a venue with a charm and a history all its own - Chick's Hotel in Port Chalmers.

Founded in 1886, the hotel has steadily gained a certain cultural currency in music circles since 2009 as a haven for the boutique, the esoteric, and alternative as performers such as Die! Die! Die! list the venue as among their favourite worldwide.

Now, three Dunedin musicians - Mike McLeod, Tom Bell, and Jake Langley of The Shifting Sands - are taking over the infamous location and ushering in the new era of Chick's Hotel 2.0.

"I talked to Hector, who has been running Chick's for the last five years, a few months back," new manager and Shifting Sands guitarist/songwriter McLeod tells me over a sun-soaked lunch in Maori Hill.

"He was talking about moving into town and starting a venue in town, which I think is still on his agenda, and offered to sell me the business.

"Tom Bell [Shifting Sands, The Heavy Eights] and I have been talking for quite a few years now about trying to run a venue. We've played around the country, I opened Circadian Rhythm in 2005, and Tom worked in the early days setting up ARC Cafe in its heyday.

"We've all been a bit frustrated in a way, playing in Dunedin and just really wanting a venue to be run and managed in the way that it could be, and the way we've seen other venues work around the country.

"Chick's is such a cool old building and it's got a lot of history. Hector's done a good job at starting what we can kind of work with; the name is certainly out there."

The first item on the agenda for McLeod and Co was an aesthetic overhaul of a venue once loved for its shabby charm and infamous for its terrifying bathrooms.

"The first thing we did is rebuild the stage," McLeod says.

"We've also removed the false ceiling in the venue above the stage. We've hung fairy lights, and scaffolding pipe to attach proper lights.

"We've also finally got a proper PA and given the whole place a massive clean."

A regular return bus service from Dunedin, recording studio, quiz and table tennis nights, and concert screenings of footage recorded by Bob Sutton during Flying Nun's heyday in the '80s will also be added by the new management.

With reports from early shows overwhelmingly positive, here's hoping the future is bright for Chick's Hotel.

Chick's Hotel
Upcoming shows at Chick's Hotel, 2 Mount St, Port Chalmers.

• Tonight: Snapper and guests, 9pm, $10
Friday, November 23: Bill Morris and the Mark IVs, Swampy, D and 5 Pint, and Hana Fahy, 9pm, $10
Saturday, November 24: The Prophet Hens and Guests, 9pm, $10

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