The Tote Hotel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Tote Hotel
The tote
Tote Rally Banners Entrance.JPG
Entrance to the Tote Hotel during the January 2010 closure rally
Former namesHealy's
The Ivanhoe Hotel
LocationCollingwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
TypeMusic venue
Genre(s)Independent music
Heavy Metal
Built1870s (original)
1911 (present structure)
Opened1876 (as the Ivanhoe)
1980 (as the Tote)

The Tote is a hotel, pub, bar, and live music venue located in Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia. The venue hosts many independent local, Australian and international acts, and carries a reputation for showcasing new and emerging independent musical acts of a variety of stylistic origins, having done so since the 1980s. The venue operates 5 days a week with performances across 3 settings, the "main stage", the "cobra bar" and the "front bar". It is located at 67-71 Johnston Street.

The hotel is thought to have been built in 1870 as Healey's, becoming the Ivanhoe Hotel in 1876, and held by the Healey family until 1940, when it was renovated. The name changed to "The Tote" in 1980 when the venue began hosting local and Australian punk, post-punk, heavy metal and hardcore bands.

On 15 January 2010, due to high financial costs surrounding disputed liquor licensing laws, it was announced that the venue would be closing that same weekend. A groundswell of community support for the venue and opposition to aspects of liquor licensing laws, quickly mobilised. Several groups on social networking sites quickly sprung up, one such group attracting over 20,000 people. On Sunday the 17th, an estimated crowd of around 2,000 rallied outside the Tote. The events surrounding the closure, the rally and various petitions, sparked public and political debate about liquor licensing laws and live music in Melbourne and Victoria. On 23 February, a much larger rally of at least 10,000, the 2010 Melbourne live music rally, was later held in central Melbourne, that same day amendments to liquor licensing laws were announced. The Tote was eventually reopened and continues to serve the community to the present day.


The current venue is most likely named after an illegal betting shop operated by John Wren between 1893 and 1905 which was fictionalised in Frank Hardy's 1950 novel Power Without Glory. The connections between The Tote ( hotel) and The Tote ( betting shop) are likely to be fictional.


Upon the settlement of Collingwood from the 1830s to the 1850s, a dairy farm occupied the area for many years. The first building to occupy the site was a wooden shanty operated by storekeepers Messrs. Howitt and Hale during the 1850s.[1] Daniel Healey, then an uncertificated insolvent, purchased the land in 1867 for £400 and fraudulently[2][3] transferred the deed by trust to his wife and child, operating the site as a grain store before building a hotel for £740 in about 1870.[4] Daniel Healey was the publican, operating the hotel as 'Healeys', with his wife Bridget Healey. It was not profitable to begin with as Daniel Healey faced a second insolvency for debts amounting to £212 7s in April 1871.[5]

By 1876, the name had become the 'Ivanhoe Hotel', also known as Healey's Ivanhoe Hotel.[6] In his youth, the Healey's son, famous bookmaker Mr. Mick Healey, would help run the hotel before obtaining his bookmaker license in 1884.[7] New licensing laws in 1886 saw licensee Bridget Healey before the local courts for having a door open to the bar or unlocked during prohibited hours.[8] Daniel Healey died 14 August 1894 at age 58.[9]

From 1893 to 1905, it has been alleged the venue was used as an illegal betting shop by childhood friend of Mr. Mick Healey, John Wren, though this seems unlikely, considering the Tea Shop likely used as a cover for this gambling was 200m across the road, backing onto Sackville Street. It is around this time that the rumoured tunnels leading from the Tote's cellar to buildings opposite, are suspected to have been constructed.

Bridget Healey died 8 February 1906 and the hotel ownership transferred to her daughters,[10] who leased the hotel out in 1912. It was not always run appropriately with daughter Margaret Walsh attempting to eject holder Eleanor Hunt in 1915 for not conforming to the licensing act by 'supplying a person under 18 years of age with liquor'.[11] Mr. Mick Healey died May 1940 and in June, after being in the possession of the Healey family for more than 70 years, the hotel was purchased by Mr. Stanley Bell, of the Eureka Hotel, Richmond. At purchase he stated the intent to make extensive alterations to the building.[12] The exterior tiles and simplified parapet are typical of interwar pub renovations, and so probably date from this time. The upper floor windows and the similar ground floor windows are typically 19th century, so that its 1870 origins are still quite clear.[13]

In 1950, the venue was famously fictionalised in Frank Hardy's 1950 novel Power Without Glory.

In 1980, the venue began operating as 'The Tote' and quickly established itself as a centre of contemporary live music.

Musical highlights[edit]

Rowland S. Howard performing at The Tote in 2007

The Tote is often associated with distinctly Australian rock & roll. Groups and artists including The Meanies, Cosmic Psychos, The Drones, Mach Pelican,[14] Magic Dirt, The Birthday Party, The Spazzys, Underground Lovers, Rowland S. Howard, and Miss Destiny were regulars at the venue. On 28 September 1986 The Bo-Weevils recorded a performance at the venue, which was issued as Garage Twangin' Retard Rabble Sounds, on cassette later that year.[15]

Larger Australian bands such as Jet, Silverchair and the Hoodoo Gurus also appeared. The venue hosted many international acts, including The White Stripes and Mudhoney.[16]

Rumours and legends[edit]

The Tote Ghost[edit]

There is a popular myth that a ghost infrequently inhabits the Tote. The ghost is said to be neither friendly nor unfriendly and supposedly inhabits the landing of the stairs (beneath the large 'Cobra Woman' banner) and is apparently always seen making its way upstairs. The ghost is often speculated to be a lost patron looking for the amenities, or a faded rock god whose demise no-one noticed, but the most popular story involves Squizzy Taylor the Melbourne gangster, a rowdy New Year's Eve patron and an uncooperative publican.

The original publicans Daniel Healey passed on residence 1894, and Bridget Healey passed on residence 1906.

On the day of 30 April 1905 a domestic servant named Ellen M'Carthy became the mother of an infant which she put in a box beneath her bed.[17] When seen by another person the child was dead. No violence was involved and charges of concealment of birth were discharged.[18]

Totes McGrotes

The phrase "Totes McGrotes" is said to have originated from a regular patron in the late 1980s, Kevin "Grotey" McGrotes.


There are persistent rumours of tunnels running from the cellar of the current Tote under Johnston and Wellington Streets to shops opposite. These are supposed to have facilitated get-aways for bookies who used to operate from the pub.[14][19]

January 2010 closure[edit]

The intersection of Johnston and Wellington Streets, Collingwood, during the rally on 17 January 2010

On 14 January 2010, it was announced that the Tote Hotel would close that same weekend.[20] In the lead-up to the closure, the business owner, Bruce Milne, had been contesting through VCAT, certain conditions and requirements of the "high risk conditions" of Victorian Liquor Licensing laws, imposed upon the venue. The costs of the "high risk" conditions, including CCTV installation and increased security, and high costs of pursuing the case through VCAT, triggered financial strain on the owner, who was forced to close the venue on 14 January. The "high risk conditions" were triggered by the fact that the Tote hosts performance of "live or amplified music". These "high risk" conditions have been the subject of much dispute and debate, prior to and after the closure of the Tote Hotel, with many arguing that the "high risk" conditions should be evidence-based and not triggered merely by the performance of music.

17 January rally[edit]

At 6pm on Sunday, 17 January, an estimated crowd of between 2,000[21] and 5,000[citation needed] rallied outside the Tote, filling the intersection of Johnston and Wellington Streets and spilling down each street.[22] People found other vantage points on rooftops, upper story windows and balconies in the surrounding buildings. Amongst the crowd were amateur and professional photographers, film makers, a Tote documentary crew, various local independent music celebrities and a large collection of Melbourne's local independent musicians, patrons, long-time Tote patrons, former employees and others.

Petitions circulated the crowd before a makeshift PA system was set up through one of the building's upper-level windows, facilitating speeches from "Fair Go 4 Live Music", Rod Quantock, a councillor for the City of Yarra and owner Bruce Milne. A long line of optimistic patrons had also begun to form down Wellington Street attempting to gain access to the venue.

As the evening progressed, several unsuccessful attempts were made to set up bands in the street. A house in Wellington Street had bands playing within it, while a shopfront at 79 Johnston Street also housed a band called Psychic Temple,[23] featuring members from Melbourne-based outfits Electric Jellyfish, The Morrisons and The Melbourne Bitters. By 10pm, the crowd had been moved to the pathways and around 11pm the intersection was reopened. A large crowd remained at the intersection for some time into the night.

People gathering and queuing on Wellington Street, closing night

Fair Go 4 Live Music petition[edit]

A petition was circulated by "Fair Go 4 Live Music", in response to the Tote's closure, which currently has over 1,000 signatories. It requests that the high risk conditions only be placed on venues after evidence-based assessment has been made to ascertain their categorisation of being "high risk". At the moment, the high risk conditions are triggered merely by hosting "live or amplified music", which forces small music venues to close at 1am or pay high costs in security to remain open till 3am. Meanwhile, high capacity venues, nightclubs elsewhere who can afford to pay to comply with the high risk conditions are allowed to continue to operate despite evidence and history of alcohol-related violence. The petition reads:

"The petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council that the liquor licensing laws and regulations are destroying the vibrancy and viability of live music performed in licensed venues. The "high risk conditions" should not be triggered by cultural practice (if live or amplified music is being played) but rather by high alcohol consumption patterns. The assessment and application of security, CCTV and other high cost conditions should be evidence based, and not based on the biased assumptions and opinions of bureaucrats."

"The Petitioners therefore request that: 1. The Victorian Government institute a proper investigation into the causes of violence and drunkenness. 2. Until such investigation is undertaken and concluded, the Government remove all references to "live and amplified music" from the license amenity clause on liquor licenses. 3. The Government formulate a cultural policy that promotes and maintains Melbourne as Australia's capital for live music."[citation needed]

The rally at the Tote, 17 January 2010


The Tote Hotel had reopened under new management by April that year.[24]

Feature Film[edit]

A documentary film Persecution Blues:the battle for the Tote, detailing the communities fight to save the hotel, premiered in Melbourne at the 60th Melbourne International Film Festival in July, 2011.[25] It is directed by Natalie van den Dungen and edited by Ken Swallows. Subsequently, the film was picked up by Cinema Nova for cinema release, and aired on ABC Television on 25 January 2012 and 19 January 2016.[26]

The movie was released on DVD and on iTunes by Madman Entertainment in 2013.



Music Victoria Awards[edit]

The Music Victoria Awards are an annual awards night celebrating Victorian music. They commenced in 2006. The award for Best Venue was introduced in 2016.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
Music Victoria Awards of 2016 The Tote Hotel Best Venue (Under 500 Capacity) Won [27][28]
Music Victoria Awards of 2017 The Tote Hotel Best Venue (Under 500 Capacity) Won
Music Victoria Awards of 2018 The Tote Hotel Best Venue (Under 500 Capacity) Nominated
Music Victoria Awards of 2019 The Tote Hotel Best Venue (Under 500 Capacity) Nominated
Music Victoria Awards of 2020 The Tote Hotel Best Venue (Under 500 Capacity) Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mercury and Weekly Courier, Sat 6 Jun 1885, p. 3.
  2. ^ Leader, 22 October 1870, p. 20
  3. ^ Geelong Advertiser, 22 October 1870, p. 3
  4. ^ The Age, 25 April 1872, p. 3
  5. ^ The Argus, 6 April 1871, p. 6
  6. ^ "Collingwood Licensing Meeting". The Herald. Victoria, Australia. 5 December 1876. p. 3. Retrieved 6 February 2020 – via Trove.
  7. ^ Sporting Globe, Wed 22 May 1940, p. 8
  8. ^ Mercury and Weekly Courier, 12 March 1886, p. 3
  9. ^ The Age, 16 Aug 1894, p. 1
  10. ^ The Age, 2 March 1906, p. 5
  11. ^ The Age, 18 Dec 1915, p. 20
  12. ^ "Ivanhoe Hotel Sold". Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854–1954). 22 June 1940. p. 26. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Hotel:The Tote". Collingwood Historical Society.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ a b Donovan, Patrick (22 June 2004). "Sticky carpet, hard rock". The Age. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  15. ^ Garage Twangin' Retard Rabble Sounds (Media notes). The Bo-Weevils. Not on Label. 1986. DEX 3265.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  16. ^ Brandle, Lars (9 January 2010). "Closing Time". Billboard. Vol. 122, no. 1. p. 16 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ The Age, 16 June 1905, p. 4
  18. ^ "A GIRL MOTHER". Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859–1929). 29 June 1905. p. 1. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  19. ^ Sweeney, Lou (31 May 2010). "Standing the test of time". Domain. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  20. ^ Grace, Robyn (14 January 2010). "Melbourne music icon The Tote shuts up shop". The Age. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  21. ^ Crook, Andrew (18 January 2010). "White knights circling to save The Tote". Crikey. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  22. ^ "Rolling of Collingwood's Tote rocks music fans". The Age. 18 January 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  23. ^ Psychic Temple
  24. ^ Krinsky, Charles (2016). The Ashgate Research Companion to Moral Panics. Routledge. p. 342. ISBN 9781317042433.
  25. ^ "Persecution Blues: The battle for the Tote". MIFF. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  26. ^ "PERSECUTION BLUES: The Battle for the Tote". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  27. ^ "Previous Nominess". Music Victoria. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  28. ^ "Previous Winners". Music Victoria. Retrieved 13 August 2020.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°47′58″S 144°59′14″E / 37.7994°S 144.9871°E / -37.7994; 144.9871