University silent on Re:Fuel future

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Dunedin’s music venues are back in the spotlight, after restructuring by the University of Otago has cost one venue manager his job.

Re:Fuel manager Scott Muir has lost his position booking gigs for the popular student venue and the future of the space remains unclear until the university’s campus-wide hospitality strategy is completed.

University of Otago chief operating officer Stephen Willis said until the strategy was complete, the tertiary institute could not “speculate” about whether the venue would close, be replaced or become a student-only bar.

For now, management of the venue would come under the direction of the campus’ hospitality manager.

Dunedin musician Brendan Christie said the loss of the music scene stalwart from a venue that had supported a large number of bands starting out was a concern for local musicians.

The uncertainty over the future of Re:Fuel was also concerning as there was a lack of middle-sized venues in the city that could hold audiences of between 100 and 300 people, he said.

Re:Fuel had also consistently provided a space for new bands to “learn the trade”, as well as providing the gear required, Mr Christie said.

There was a “big cloud of uncertainty” over the music scene.

The Crown manager Jones Chin said he hosted “quite a few gigs” every week, ranging from reggae to rock and DJs, and audience numbers were “OK”.

Dunedin Folk Club president Bernadette Berry said the club had no difficulty gathering a crowd or booking concerts, and a steady stream of artists contacted the club.

While she was not sure what was happening with Re:Fuel, it was a pity that Mr Muir had lost his job because he had been “very supportive” of the club and the wider music scene, she said.

Jared Smith, who runs the weekly open mic session at Dog With Two Tails, said the venue was “going OK”, hosting a wide variety of artists in the Moray Pl cafe, which can hold up to 60 people.

He had “heard very little” about the future of Re:Fuel, but the university would be “very silly to close it”.

Restaurant Plato, which hosted occasional concerts with artists including Tami Neilson, The Warratahs and Tiny Ruins, would not be significantly affected by any changes to Re:Fuel, even though they had similar-size venues, maitre d’ Georgina Middleton said.

This was because the owner was “reasonably selective” about the acts hosted there and Plato was a restaurant “first and foremost”, she said.

Mr Muir said he was unable to comment.