The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar are launching an online magazine to save the beloved venue

The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar are launching an online magazine to save the beloved venue

Amyl & The Sniffers during a soundcheck in The Last Chance front bar.
Words by Arielle Richards

We chat to the venue’s co-owner, Shane Hilton, about the new venture.

The Last Chance Rock and Roll Bar is starting an online music magazine in a heartfelt effort to keep its doors open.

For the past few years, The Last Chance has become a Melbourne favourite, offering live music from Wednesday through Sunday, incredible dive-style food and service hours stretching to 7am on weekends. Since its genesis, the spot has drawn in a dedicated community of friends, musos, music heads and hospitality workers from across the city.

Shane Hilton owns and runs The Last Chance with his partner, Leanne. For Shane, The Last Chance had always been a lifelong dream of his, despite the well-documented instability of running an independent venue in the hospitality industry.

“Small businesses always struggle in hospitality, if you’re doing it to be rich you’re in the wrong business,” Shane says. “Prior to COVID, it was really good, we had just started to break even. Leanne and I had even booked our first holiday in seven years for June. We were hopeful this would be the year that it would be easier for us.”

In March, when hospitality venues were forced to close as the pandemic hit the country, Shane and Leanne’s hopes were brought to a grinding halt.

“Everything just stopped,” Shane says. “At that moment we realised that being a live music venue wasn’t going to be sustainable for a long time. So we knew that we had to change our business, just to preserve our lease, so that when restrictions were finally lifted we would be there to have bands on stage.”

Shane said The Last Chance had always prided itself on being the venue where bands had their start, as the “stepping stone between the practice room and their careers”.

But in no longer being able to provide that opportunity, the owners wanted to channel their knowledge of the industry and champion the creativity of their community to create something positive, especially while Victoria remains in lockdown for the foreseeable future.

“We just want to bring a bit of positivity. People that love music are positive people, we might be grouchy but we are positive – we love something so much. We want to bring that back, have a bit of light while people are in lockdown,” Shane says.

“And that’s how we came up with the idea to start a publication.”

Shane had always been an avid consumer of music news, with a deep passion for the industry as a whole. He and Leanne had thought about starting a magazine years ago, when they first opened The Last Chance.

But running the pub became “all consuming”.

“Hours wise, we’d work upwards of 80 hours a week, we just didn’t have time. In a weird way, being shut down has almost been a blessing, because it’s given us time to start the magazine up. And if it can help us keep our venue alive, that’s even better.”

In its initial stages, the magazine will be available online for free. The platform will allow the multimedia content it hosts to come in all shapes and sizes, including through videos, livestreams and even podcasts.

Another huge bonus for Shane is The Last Chance’s staff will remain employed, going from slinging beers to writing magazine features in a matter of months.

“That’s the really exciting thing,” he says. “When I told our manager he would go from working the bar two to three nights a week, to working five days a week in an office job, he was just shocked.”

Shane isn’t worried about there being a limited supply of music content during lockdown.

“This is the amazing thing – bands may be in lockdown and not even able to rehearse but they’ve come up with so much material,” he says.

“Life may stop, but creativity doesn’t. If anything, there might be too much to write about!”

To save The Last Chance, Shane and Leanne launched their plan on Facebook and Instagram, asking their community for support via a quirky initiative – if 3,000 people purchase the equivalent of one pint a month for six months, they would reach their goal. The plea was met with huge support, with at least 400 punters chipping in much more than what was asked.

Shane says they would never have expected the show of support they had received, while the response from the community and around the country has been “humbling”.

“Just, wow. We’ve reached a third of our target in just a week, and we really weren’t planning on that,” he says.

During lockdown, Shane and Leanne have maintained their commitment to their community. Rather than opt for Uber Eats or Deliveroo for their takeaway food service, they jumped at the chance to employ a few hospo mates to deliver The Last Chance’s fried chicken on the weekends.

While The Last Chance has so far survived lockdown, Shane can’t wait until they can open their doors again. During the three-week lockdown lift in June, the pub had a couple of bands come in for practice on a Saturday, and Shane had “the best afternoon” since lockdown, hearing live music in the venue again.

“It was just the best,” he continues. “I was in the kitchen doing prep, where you can hear everything from the bandroom. Usually rehearsals are just so boring, but it was the best five or six hours I’ve ever had.”

Shane hopes the magazine will be a place where musicians and artists can have their work showcased in a public forum, just like The Last Chance itself.

“I’d love for it to be a little live music venue, but in the palm of your hand,” he said.

As for the pub, Shane hadn’t realised how much the venue and its people had meant to him until it wasn’t there.

“I usually think of it as a little hole in the wall, which always manages to survive no matter what,” he concludes. “But it’s home.”

Help keep The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar alive by buying a pint towards their magazine cause here.

Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.