The Zoo to Close After 32 Years of Bringing Live Music to Fortitude Valley

In a major blow to Brisbane’s live music scene, iconic Fortitude Valley entertainment venue The Zoo will be closing for good in July 2024, after over 32 years in operation.

Owner Shane Chidgzey cited a “perfect storm” of financial pressures forcing the closure of the 500-capacity Fortitude Valley institution, as well as its sister venue, Stranded.

According to Chidgzey, the Zoo’s current revenue stands at only 60% of the previous financial year due to cost-of-living pressures impacting alcohol sales and a trend of declining drinking among younger audiences. Insurance costs have also nearly doubled in recent years to $65,000 annually.

Powderfinger performing at the Zoo, 1995
Photo Credit: Instagram / @powderfinger_bandofficial

“The model is broken, unfortunately, when it comes to music venues,” Chidgzey lamented. “You’ve got a cost-of-living crisis in Australia, which is huge … And there’s a new trend of not drinking, which is a wonderful trend for health but not so good for bars.”

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Photo Credit: Instagram / @thezoo.bne

The Zoo’s location in the government’s Safe Night Precinct added further financial strain through increased regulations, security costs, and higher rent compared to other local venues outside the precinct boundaries.

Chidgzey argued a levy on major international touring artists could help subsidise grassroots music venues. “They need to be putting a dollar transaction per ticket on that to put into local music,” he stated.

Opened in 1992, The Zoo quickly became an iconic part of Brisbane’s music fabric. Original owner Joc Curran reflected, “The Zoo was an impossible thing, that became possible because of community, love, and a belief that magic could happen … but now it is time to say goodnight.”

Photo Credit: Instagram / @thezoo.bne

Renowned Australian musician Robert Forster, co-founder of The Go-Betweens, recalled the venue as “the first well-run, stable, encouraging, well-organised venue in Brisbane that I’d ever encountered,” providing a vital permanent space for local acts.

While plans are underway for farewell shows and an auction of memorabilia, the closure represents a major loss for Brisbane’s live music ecology after over three decades of history.

Photo Credit: Instagram / @thezoo.bne

As Chidgzey bluntly put it, “The model is broken” for small music venues navigating the current financial climate.

In Jo Walker’s eulogy for The Zoo, he said “The place was small, but it felt like it belonged to all of us. And even when the air-con was finally installed, we earned that sweat.”

“It’s not enough to pour one out for these lost venues. We must support the precious spots we have left. Go see a local band. Shout another round. Tip the bartender. Buy the merch. Tell your friends. Get sweaty and get rowdy. That’s the legacy of The Zoo.”

Published 5-May-2024