Kings Arms sale leaves a gap in Auckland’s music scene - Sundae

(The Kings Arms/ Facebook)
(The Kings Arms/ Facebook)

The sale and impending closure of iconic Auckland venue The Kings Arms will leave music fans with fewer opportunities to see up-and-coming international acts, says one industry stalwart.

The central Auckland tavern was recently sold to developers for more than $7 million, but will stay open until at least early 2018.

The Kings Arms has been a hotspot for international acts and local artists for more than 20 years, and a gathering place for generations of music fans.

Hugh Sundae, general manager at Auckland radio station 95bFM, says the venue was unique in many ways and the loss will be felt widely once it shuts its doors.

It sits on the fringes of the CBD, has an outdoor area and garden bar and can cater to both small and packed out crowds.

Mr Sundae says promoters will be hit particularly hard, because the venue's size made it perfect for “testing out” international acts before putting them on bigger stages.

He says the venue offered an opportunity for the promoters of festivals like Laneway to test out acts before adding them to their main lineup.

The Kings Arms famously hosted American rock duo The White Stripes in 2000, two years before they rose to prominence overseas following the release of their album White Blood Cells.

Owner Maureen Gordon has been running the venue for more than 20 years, beginning with country music and transitioning into alternative music on the advice of her daughter.

She says it has been a treasured part of her family, with many of them working for the business, which includes the venue and the adjoining sports bar.

She's sad to be letting go of the Kings Arms, which has been an "outstanding" part of her life and many "wonderful years, with so many people", but says she made the difficult decision to sell because it was hard to sustain the business in the face of rising rates, large overheads and a dwindling market.

"It's a huge break for the Gordon family" she says, and they'll miss the music, the friendships, and the way the business became part of their lives.

Ms Gordon says the local band scene is "not nearly as strong as it used to be" and "socialising has changed" meaning that the venue and sports bar are less busy than in past years.

A 6000-strong petition launched earlier this year calling for “the centre of the Auckland music scene" to be saved was not enough to stop the sale.

However, Mr Sundae is confident the music community will recover and new venues will come up, despite it being "a moral blow" to many.

"Any time a historic venue closes it reinforces the idea that Auckland doesn't value its cultural heritage as much perhaps as other cities do", Mr Sundae says.

But Auckland isn’t the only city losing an iconic music venue. Wellington’s Bodega announced in June that it will close its doors on December 23 after 25 years of live music.