Likely Tamworth Country Music Festival cancellation a blow to town’s pubs

03 September, 2020 by Vanessa Cavasinni

It is looking very likely that the 2021 Tamworth Country Music Festival (TCMF 2021) will be cancelled, as current regulations do not allow music festivals to run, and local council has pulled out of the management of associated events. As a massive driver of tourism and spend within the town, the area’s pubs are bracing for another loss of trade for their venues.

On Tuesday, the Tamworth Regional Council put forward a recommendation to councillors to suspend Council-managed events for TCMF 2021. The recommendation comes at a critical juncture for festival organisers, who would traditionally be increasing promotion at this stage in the year, and opening ticket sales.

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The decision has not come lightly, with months of in-depth consultations taking place between NSW Police, Hunter New England Health, festival sponsors and stakeholders. Organisers believe it is unlikely that social distancing and border restrictions will be eased in time to allow the event to proceed in its usual fashion, in which case many of the popular aspects of the event, such as Toyota Park, the Cavalcade, Fan Zone, and busking on Peel Street, would need to be abandoned.

The ten-day festival held each January is a massive economic boon for Tamworth, which normally brings about $50 million into the town, as well as roughly 50,000 festival-goers from all over the country. Hospitality venues, and pubs in particular, are normally beneficiaries of the influx of people by hosting festival events and welcoming new patrons to their venues. The loss of the festival is a big blow after six months of limited trade.

“The festival is amazing. It drives revenue up, but it really helps boost the March quarter. It’s the backbone of that quiet first quarter of the year for hospitality. Economically it’s massive,’ stated Ashton Waugh, who is a co-owner of both the Tudor Hotel and the recently purchased Joe Maguire’s Pub.

The Pub Group and its four venues have been heavily involved with the festival for the last 30 years, and know the gravity for the town of the likely cancellation.

“It’s been a major part of our life not only from a commercial point of view, but as patrons of the country music scene. We’re very involved with the industry. We have really good relationships with a lot of entertainers, so it’s a massive thing to happen,” says group manager Craig Power.

The group had already started outlaying money and making plans for TCMF 2021, but had hedged its bets in case the festival was cancelled.

“Unfortunately the planning with something this big takes 12 months, so we’ve already invested money into the planning. But we were always aware that there was a very strong chance it couldn’t go ahead, so most of our agreements were verbal and we hadn’t signed any contracts or tickets hadn’t gone on sale,” explained Power.

“It’s massive for Tamworth. It’s the country music capital of Australia and one of the biggest country music festivals in the world. But it is what it is. The health of our community has to remain the first priority.”

The Courthouse Hotel re-opening

Local hospitality operators Harvest Hotels have also lamented the probable cancellation of TCMF 2021.

“While it will be a real shame if TCMF doesn’t go ahead in January 2021, we also understand that the risks are far too great to take in this current climate, and we have all had to make sacrifices to try and put a stop to this virus,” states co-founder Chris Cornforth.

“The Courthouse will still be open in January, and we hope to celebrate country music in some way, shape or form, so we encourage everyone to still come and visit us. If TCMF doesn’t happen in 2021, we are sure it will be back, bigger and better than ever in 2022.”

The Courthouse Hotel is set to re-open tomorrow, 4 September, after being closed for 14 months for renovations. The major works of the pub included the restoration of the buildings’ heritage-listed façade; an extension and updating of the bistro; and outdoor spaces include a courtyard and dedicated function areas. It also included a new kitchen, an overhauled sports bar and public bar, and a dedicated family zone with soft-play equipment.

“We wanted to create a venue in town that was accommodating to everyone and we believe that The Courthouse 2.0 will be exactly that. From our local tradies looking for a place to grab a cold beer after work, and families wanting a safe and accommodating place to socialise; to corporates looking for a nice lunch, community groups looking for a place to host gatherings or event, and those simply looking for a good time, The Courthouse has been re-designed to meet the various needs of such a diverse community.”

Harvest Hotels first purchased the pub in 2016, and are pleased to add to the strong pub culture within Tamworth.

Image: (Tamworth Country Music Festival/Facebook).