After a two-year-long hiatus forced by COVID-19 and failed rent negotiations, Transit Bar in the city will reopen on 12 January at Baileys Corner.
The team behind the iconic Canberra venue has been kept busy throughout the shutdown period, with renovations and upgrades to sound and lighting at the new location now complete.
According to Transit Bar operations manager Joel Tyrell, the bar will be back with a “fresh twist in a historic venue”.
And historic it is with the underground space that is to be occupied by the bar having hosted live music throughout the ’60s and ’70s.
More recently, Transit Bar helped launch many Canberra live music acts including former Triple J breakfast radio hosts Sally and Erica’s hip hop duo Coda Conduct, and more recently ARCHIE.
Many Canberrans will remember the bar’s old space – located below ground in Akuna Street, Civic.
In May 2020, Transit Bar manager Barry Howarth told Region Media that negotiations on a three-year lease fell through when the landlord, the Canberra City YHA which operates above Transit Bar, tried to increase the rent by 10 per cent.
Mr Howarth said he tried to negotiate with Canberra City YHA after licensed venues were forced to shut down due to initial COVID-19 restrictions but they could not agree to terms.
At the time, Mr Howarth explained the venue would reopen nearby.
“It’s not 100 per cent locked in yet, but it’s a better environment with better soundproofing,” Mr Howarth said.
Now, Mr Tyrell explains Transit will have a new purpose alongside a killer menu.
“Transit is all about the shared experience; sharing a game of pool, a story, a meal, a cocktail, a schooey and most importantly, sharing a live entertainment experience,” he said.
The venue will also prioritise inclusivity, safe spaces and supporting live music.
“We have the opportunity to create a new standard for creativity, entertainment and hospitality,” Mr Tyrell said.
“We will build on Transit’s legacy in Canberra and offer something really unique for the community.”
It’s been a difficult few years for Canberra’s live music scene with repeated COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions impacting venue viability.
Director of MusicACT Daniel Ballantyne told Region Media recently that “significant public health order constraints” means some venues are operating “nowhere near viable capacity”.
However, earlier in 2021, the ACT Government’s Amp It Up! fund distributed almost $800,000 in grants to 23 live music and performance venues across the city.
Several received more than $50,000.
A range of popular local venues were successful including Smith’s Alternative in the city, a stalwart of the sector and a champion for new and emerging artists, The Basement in Belconnen and Live at the Polo in Turner.
Mr Ballantyne described this fund as a “lifeline” for venues and artists.
After Transit Bar’s launch on 12 January, local artists will play gigs throughout the month before a national act will headline the official re-opening party on 4 February.