Adjournment Debate: The Porch Sessions


Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 16:00 ): Today I wish to speak about a thriving South Australian arts business, The Porch Sessions, which brings acoustic music and local food and wine into people's backyards for good friends and young families to enjoy in a safe and accessible environment. Over the space of just three years The Porch Sessions' series of small shows held in backyards across the state has become a much-loved local institution, achieving national recognition and providing countless opportunities to the South Australian creative sector. 

The business is run by young entrepreneur Sharni Honor, who is a fierce advocate for South Australia and has managed to develop her concept to a stage where she has thrown herself into the business full time. Unfortunately, this year, Sharni has found that, on the brink of launching their fourth season, The Porch Sessions has reached a significant and potentially detrimental roadblock in liquor licensing, that threatens the continuation of the business altogether. Sharni explains the problem as this: 

For the first three seasons of The Porch Sessions, we operated on limited licenses, but due to the volume of shows taking place, upon strict recommendation from Consumer and Business Services, The Porch Sessions had exceeded the right to continue on these licences and moving forward, we now must come under a permanent liquor licence. Of which, the only option we had, as suggested by CBS, was to apply for a Special Circumstances Licence. In addition to this, the process of limited licences created a great deal of inconsistency and stress. Even if an application was lodged months prior to a given show, in some cases, the approval of these licences would only be granted 3 days prior to a sold-out event as Consumer and Business Services tend to consider the applications in chronological order rather than in the order the requests were lodged. This places incredible pressure on our business, and frankly is an entirely unsustainable way to operate moving forward, especially as The Porch Sessions books national and international acts. 

Following the recommendation of Consumer and Business Services The Porch Sessions have applied for a Special Circumstances licence. So far this process has been going for 3 months and has cost $4,000 in both legal advice and application fees. 

There have been three hearings regarding the license and the final verdict is soon to be delivered. However, at the third and final hearing the Commissioner began to consider whether The Porch Sessions would qualify for a 'Special Circumstances' licence at all, contrary to the advice of Consumer and Business Services. If this is the case, my business will be left in the same position that we started, but with a great deal of stress, having lost 3 months of time and wasted $4000. In addition to this, I am likely to still be without an option. It was Consumer and Business Services that have forbidden my business to operate on more than eight limited licences per year, leaving me little option other than ceasing The Porch Session's business operation entirely. 

I am calling upon the government today to support this small business with appropriate licences. Small arts businesses of this kind are something our state should be celebrating, not putting regulatory roadblocks in front of, especially—and I know the minister is very proud of this, as he should be, and as we all are—with Adelaide recently becoming a UNESCO City of Music. 

The Porch Sessions has created gigs for over 100 musicians, and countless creative suppliers, producers and technicians have been provided with regular employment opportunities. Over 6,000 South Australians have experienced a show across this time. The Porch Sessions also has the support of Arts SA. I believe there are advisers in the government who are aware of this. One of them has just sent me an SMS, and hopefully that will assist in cutting through some of this unnecessary red tape. I will certainly be the first one to applaud them if they are able to achieve that. 

Arts SA has deemed The Porch Sessions worthy of over $19,000 in grants to assist them as they grow and flourish to a position where they are collaborating with Australia's biggest touring companies and travelling festivals to create sustainable arts experiences for our state. As an example of the impact The Porch Sessions have made, Adelaide is widely known as a territory in which it is notoriously difficult to sell tickets in advance, but every single one of The Porch Sessions shows has sold out, with their most recent selection of shows selling out in less than 15 minutes. 

Further, The Porch Sessions has become a nationally recognised touring route for musicians as it provides a guaranteed sell out show with guaranteed artist fees—a rarity when it comes to up and coming touring musicians across the country. In the short term, I hope the government, and I particularly call on the Deputy Premier as the minister responsible for consumer and business services, will support The Porch Sessions by allowing the business to apply for more than eight limited licences per year, each with a reasonable notification period. 

In the long term, we need to look at possible better ways to help the business model but, if no action is taken, it will not only be diabolical to The Porch Sessions but to our reputation with all of those artists, businesses and touring companies that have been working with The Porch Sessions as we try to show them that we are a supportive environment that nurtures small businesses and the arts. Eight limited licences per year is an arbitrary number that Consumer and Business Services has applied to The Porch Sessions. 

I would also ask the Deputy Premier to consider taking whatever administrative action he can to ensure that, when The Porch Sessions and businesses like it apply for these limited licences, they are able to get a reasonable amount of notice. They have not been knocked back for one yet but, when they are provided with their licence three days before a sold-out event, that is an enormous risk and burden for that business to carry. It puts enormous stress on everyone involved and is completely unnecessary. 

More than eight licences and more notice given for their provision is an easy way that the Deputy Premier can do something genuine to encourage city vibrancy by supporting the small businesses that are actually delivering it.