BY ALEC SMART
A Leichardt pub leaseholder has disappeared, allegedly owing tens of thousands of dollars to bands that performed in the premises he was managing, the Bald Faced Stag Hotel on Parramatta Road.
Scott Mackenzie was removed from the premises of the Bald Faced Stag on 20 January after the owners, Marvan Hotels, became concerned about the recurring allegations of non-payment. It is believed Mackenzie, who ran the pub under his business, Ulladulla property Services, left owing musicians thousands of dollars. Dillinger Escape Plan, a metalcore band from New Jersey, USA that performed at the venue on October 18 last year are allegedly owed up to $40,000.
In April 2017 Mackenzie took over the hotel and was lauded by many for knocking down the walls of the poker machine room to create an extended dance floor for bands and punters to enjoy. Attaching a ‘Proudly Pokies Free’ banner to the pub façade, he told Good Food website in June 2017, “We knew we would be losing revenue, but there is a need for more live music venues in Sydney. Now, without the machines, we can fit 500 people in the bandroom.”
The gamble to replace pokies with punks and rockers paid off, as the Bald Faced Stag returned to its former glory as a popular venue and supporter of Australian live music.
However, it has since been revealed Mackenzie is a convicted fraudster who was jailed in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Herald reported on 12 November 2009 that Mackenzie was jailed for fraud involving $5.7 million, in which the victims included a bank, two high profile businessmen and three former professional footballers in the national Kiwis rugby league squad, Stacey Jones, Monty Betham and Awen Guttenbeil.
Over a 22-month period, Mackenzie, then 29, a property manager for Omara Property Group, used 129 false invoices to get $1.6 million paid into three companies he incorporated. The company in which the former Kiwis’ players had an interest paid almost $140,000 of false invoices.
Mackenzie also used forged documents to obtain $3.6 million in loans from the Bank of New Zealand to buy six properties.
He further defrauded the Inland Revenue Department of $509,000 through false GST returns.
Mackenzie pleaded guilty to 10 charges of Obtaining by Deception, and Auckland District Court, handed him a prison sentence of three years and eight months.
In the wake of the management shake-up, the Bald Faced Stag released a statement, “We have been made aware that various shows that were held at the Stag over the last ten months, including The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Peep Tempel, have been left chasing the pre-sale ticket money they are owed for their sell out shows at The Stag by Ulladulla Property Services.
“Along with those numerous other local artists, bands and promoters that performed at the venue in the last ten months have been left chasing performance fees and pre-sale ticket money.”
However, the venue has not confirmed whether they will be settling the large bill to aggrieved parties. In many of the cases, agents were contracted by Mackenzie to deal with the bands, whom it appears might be legally liable for the debts.
City Hub’s request for clarification to the Bald Faced Stag was passed on to Marvan Hotels, who have yet to reply.
Victorian folk-punk band The Go Set, which travelled up from Melbourne to perform at the hotel, was severely inconvenienced when they weren’t financially reimbursed. The band released a statement, saying, “The Go Set performed at the Bald Faced Stag in April 2017 as part of a national tour. We had a contracted show with a guarantee versus door. In June we received a portional payment but more than $1,000 remains outstanding.
“This is a lot of money for an independent touring band, and we have repeatedly attempted to contact the venue and used debt recovery services without any result. We are extremely disappointed at the complete disrespect for artists, who work hard to promote shows at the venue, only to have both the door sales and the guarantee taken from them.”
Justin Keenan, singer-songwriter for The Go Set, told City Hub, “All of our contracts were done through the venue booker at the time, Clayton Ries from Moonshine Productions. We’ve got a Court Order to chase the money from him as the promoter.
“I think he’s in an unfortunate position because he booked the band under his own company name, but the venue has kept our ticket money and not paid up. So, he’s the guy in the middle.”
Lozz Benson is awaiting payment for her 14 May 2017 gig supporting Slim Jim Phantom, the former drummer for rockabilly superstars Stray Cats. She told City Hub that because it was organised through a third party, Nightmare Music, and she’s still owed hundreds of dollars, she’s confused whether the tour promoters or the venue are responsible, but believes it is linked to Scott Mackenzie’s shenanigans.
“I’ve been really distressed and disappointed and totally upset at how they dealt with me. They’ve refused to pay me and said, ‘We never had a written agreement’, like just bullshitting me around.”
Justin McMaugh, whose punk band Crust Fund Kids were performing on the night Mackenzie was removed from the Bald Faced Stag, told City Hub, “We are yet to be paid. Last time it took a few weeks. The guy who booked the show said it is a different promoter, so hopefully we will get paid.”
Mackenzie released a statement in his defence, published in Music magazine, although unpaid musicians remain sceptical they will ever see payment.
“Unfortunately the business was not able to sustain itself just through music based on the inconsistent revenue…
Any money owing to bands will be getting paid once all costs have been allocated. There was and still is no intention to not pay any bands that are owed..”
Robert Burns, Senior Solicitor at Burns Law, told City Hub, “There is always an argument in favour of holding a venue responsible where the venue either directly or ostensibly gives authority to a third person to negotiate bookings on its behalf. In this situation the band would claim that an agency arrangement exists with ultimate responsibility falling on the venue.
“In support of this it must be remembered that the reason pubs and clubs have bands perform, is to attract patrons and increase sales of both food and over the bar. Sometimes they will take a door fee as well.
“Ultimately where it can be shown that the venue financially benefited from the services of the band, a strong argument exists that the venue should pay the band’s fee. Aside from any argument of agency the band may claim what lawyers refer to as quantum meruit, which is basically a fair price for a fair service provided.
“The other argument is that the third-party who booked the band may also be personally responsible for the band’s fee. This may be particularly so if the third-party is taking a cut from the venue.
In any event, a band that has to sue for its performance fee should include the venue as well as any “agent” that was involved in the negotiations.
“One thing to be careful of is that many venues are operated by both licensees and trading companies. Quite often a complex structure of companies and trusts is set up to distribute income and liabilities for the venue, making it difficult to correctly identify the entity responsible for paying a band. Don’t simply assume that it’s enough to claim against the name that appears above the front door.
“For this very reason every band should have some form of basic contract that they ask a properly authorised representative of the venue to sign. That contract should set out the fundamental terms of the performance as well as identifying the party responsible for payment of fees.”