Plea to reach decision over Sammy’s

Sammy's. Photo: ODT Files
Sammy's. Photo: ODT Files
Dunedin's music community needs to hear a "definitive answer" about the future of Sammy’s so it can move on, the Dunedin City Council has heard.

The plea was made at a hearing for the council’s 2024-25 annual plan, on Thursday.

Save Dunedin Live Music spokesman David Bennett said the music community needed accurate information on the former venue, which is a ratepayer-owned property, so they could accept a decision about its future.

The council bought it for $128,000 in 2017 to stop it from being demolished, and while it had been floated as an option for a mid-sized venue, it had continued to sit empty.

Mr Bennett said a price for restoring the building needed to be made public, so the potential benefits to the music ecosystem could be weighed against it.

"I submitted on this last year, I’m back to do it again, I’ll be back next year and the year after until we have a price — not an educated guess but a proper assessment on the cost of making that building safe and usable.

"We own the building — let’s find out if we can use it."

Mr Bennett said he was "shocked" to learn about the current state of the Fortune Theatre, when it was raised in discussions as a potential site for an inner city rehearsal space.

While it was not the best venue, its location alone put it "leagues ahead" of other council assets for accessibility, and its thick walls and semi-subterranean nature provided excellent acoustic insulation.

With some work, it could have been instrumental for delivering positive outcomes for the city’s arts and music communities, he said.

"Instead it was left to rot, and eventually discarded.

"We believe urgent action is needed on Sammy’s to prevent it facing the same fate."

Cr Jim O’Malley said the general feedback around Sammy’s was it could not be entered to remove the asbestos because of an earthquake strengthening issue — caused by the asbestos.

This had created a logical loop, and if this loop was not broken, "the only thing that can happen to Sammy’s is that it gets demolished from the outside", he said.

Cr O’Malley said he was looking for either a plan to re-enter the building, or an acknowledgement it was going to be too difficult and so the building had to be demolished.

Mr Bennett said he was hesitant to think "after thousands of years of human evolution" that somebody could not figure this out.

"Surely we can just knock a hole in one area of the building to gain access. I’m sure there are people who deal with this who are smarter than me."

Mr Bennett said the Dunedin music community needed to hear answers about what options were still available.

"If we’re unable to enter and we just have to knock the building down, fair enough, but that means we can move on to other things.

"We just need a definitive answer, one way or the other."