Settlers Tavern named Australias best licensed live music
Margaret Rivers Settlers Tavern has received a prestigious commendation in one of Australias most respected music industry awards, named the APRA Licensee of the Year.
Settlers owners Rob and Karen Gough will jet to Sydney early next week to collect the award on behalf of the Tavs team, at a glittering awards ceremony alongside some of the countrys best performers.
“Ive been told Midnight Oil will be there, accepting an award, and there are apparently some pretty impressive names attending on the night so were a bit excited,” Mr Gough told the Mail.
“We were told about a week ago and of course the news hadnt been released yet, so we couldnt tell anyone,” Mr Gough explained.
The award was introduced in 2017 to reward licensee groups for excellent music citizenship, which APRA Awards Viv Fantin said was the cornerstone of Settlers commitment to live music.
“Settlers Tavern is a high-profile venue renowned for their ongoing support of live music, the operators are highly valued members of the Margaret River and wider WA communities.”
Peter Garrett at Settlers Tavern. Photo: Daniela Tommasi
Unlike other live music venues around the country, which are experiencing a decline in support and financial revenue, Mr Gough said Settlers existed in a “very special” situation.
“We are very lucky in many ways that the Tavern is in a place like Margaret River – we have tourism, we have big events like Gourmet Escape and the Pro, Leeuwin and others, that consistently bring new people to town.
“Alongside that we deliver nearly 250 live shows a year, which draws fans of those artists to the area and creates a live music hub in the town.”
Mr Gough said the Taverns commitment to music covered the support of much-loved local acts like Ten Cent Shooters, Stillwater Giants and Pete Matthews and the Three Day Locals with big name headline acts like Peter Garrett, Dan Sultan and John Butler.
The taverns regular open mic night offers a platform for emerging artists to develop their live music skills, while entertainment coordinator Jon Godden works closely with the rest of the Settlers team to create a diverse roster of acts.
“We put a strong focus on diversity and trying to offer a range of music and acts for all tastes.
“Weve got comedy nights, country and western, jazz, world music and a bit of good old fashioned rock and roll.”
Mr Gough said they had been lucky to avoid the scourge of the poker machines that moved into pubs and hotels along the East coast of the country, removing the necessity for live music as a revenue earner.
“A lot of the pubs over east sold out to the pokies and it is a real shame, because there just became no need for bands or music to entertain the punters,” he said.
"Tourism holds a strong card in the funding debate and it certainly has improved in recent times with a change in the approach to liquor licensing laws.
“An extended trading permit is essential to being able to deliver the live music we do – as a pub that serves meals until 9pm, we often dont start the music until later and of course you need the extended permit to be able to stay open later to accommodate that.”
“Tourism in Australia, and particularly in WA, holds a very strong card in the debate and now the tourism factor is an equal consideration when applying for the extended license.
“People are recognising the importance of live music to a thriving precinct like Margaret River.”
Mr Gough said the venue worked with the local community and businesses to ensure the thriving scene did little to disrupt neighbours.
“Of course, we have to be right on top of things like noise, rubbish, people leaving the venue late at night, safety… there is a lot to consider when it comes to hosting these amazing gigs that draw in huge crowds, its certainly a huge team effort to make it happen.”
And it doesnt end there.
Rob Gough addresses the Settlers Tavern team inside the venue.
The Settlers Tavern team will be responsible for feeding the hungry hordes of professional surfers, ex-pros and special guests in the Margaret River Pro VIP box at the Surfers Point Event site next week.
“Yes, were even busier than usual at the moment organising all of that, which is really great to be a part of.
“Were a Gold Sponsor of the Pro and have been for many years, and its another way that the Tavern can be a part of the event and have our fantastic food enjoyed by some of the worlds best athletes while theyre here.”
After 15 years at the helm of the always-bustling Main Street establishment, the Goughs show no signs of tiring.
“You have to want to do this job, and then its not a job,” he said.
“Its incredibly hard work, and there is always something to handle or another big event coming up, but I think if you find something that youre genuinely passionate about and that feeds your soul while you work, it makes it all worthwhile.
“The fact that we have such a solid group of people behind us, working towards the same goals, makes it even sweeter.”