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Diamonds Goes Into Receivership

by Ben Clissold

The grapevine today (17/12/98) bared the sad news that Diamonds had been placed in the hands of the receivers. After really struggling to regain the halcyon days of Stylus, it was almost inevitable, but for those of us in the outer South East, it was a sad end to a once great venue.

Stylus opened to great fanfare in the mid 1990s, and quickly gained a reputation for being a big and classy venue. With three large rooms, and two smaller ones, it was big, and offered a great variety of entertainment. There was the techno room downstairs, next to the smaller karaoke room. The next level up was a great band room, with retro and party tracks. The third floor was a R&B and funk room, and the fourth was a chill out room.

Its Saturday quickly became the premier night in Melbourne, with queues starting at around 9.30. Its opening really hurt clubs like Metro and Jooce because of its location and size. How good was it to only have to travel fifteen minutes for a decent venue?

It redefined a lot of rules for clubs. First it was big, second it was suburban, third it was multi-roomed, and finally it was a no-denim venue. These allowed for a unique club experience, in an environment that felt quite classy. If you didn’t like the music in one room, you could just move to the next. It probably took about a year for clubs like Metro to react by increasing their entertainment to compete.

This was realistically the start of Stylus’ fall, because they started to lose their competitive advantage of entertainment. They quickly lost Thursday and Friday, but retained Saturday because as long as the crowd was large, more crowds would follow. If a place is in, people will flock there, so Stylus managed to draw crowds without any real effort.

It lulled them into a false sense of security though. They moved to a five o’clock license, put drink prices up, and developed a strange attitude. I will never forget a discussion I had with the promotions manager there, whilst I was nightclub liaison at Monash Uni, that concluded with her saying to me: “We don’t need you. We’re Stylus.” Needless to say, that upset a large number of students.

The five o’clock license had the wrong effect. It seems that most people spend about five hours in a club. So where they used to arrive early at 10, and stay until 3, they started coming at 11 and leaving at four. They would have more drinks before they arrived so were more drunk later in the night, and they started having more fights. It also meant that those who left early had less incentive. People who work weekends, and young clubbers tend to leave around 2pm. If nobody is there until 11 or midnight, what is the point of going there? When a place is open until 3, the crowd arrives earlier, and many who would leave at 2, decide that it is only another hour until close. The only gain they made from it, was that there was less trouble getting taxis.

The attitude of the promotions people was a killer. They really became greedy. They decided that their market should be older, because they have more money. However, they forgot that there are less singles as you get older, and they were targeting the same people that were there when it opened. These people were sick of the place. Ideally, they needed to target 18-22 for a real chance, even if they were not so wealthy.

All of these problems were becoming apparent to those of us in the know. I was working for a small club called Flame at the time, and we were starting to make good inroads into the younger market, as were Jooce. Flame did not work because of a lack of dollars, but we knew Stylus was going down. Shortly after that, Construction Site and Ringwood Saloon opened, and took crowds from Jooce and Stylus. Later, Rosie’s and Daisey’s took more numbers. I was a big part of Rosie’s, and we continued down the young path. I remember one survey that said that 80% of under 20s had never been to Stylus. It was not their scene.

By mid 1997, Stylus were starting to lose numbers. In this situation Metro would have put on better bands and DJs, but Stylus did not, because things were still okay. That was until a guy was killed outside the venue. Even though this was beyond Stylus’ control, their reputation was damaged. This was the night they never recovered from. Overnight, crowds halved, and they could do nothing about it. The only real solution would have been to close down for a month or two, but that is rarely practical for a business.

Eventually, the place was renamed Diamonds. The venue was essentially the same, except the band room was closed, the R&B room became a retro room, and the chill-out room became the R&B room. However, a renaming was just not enough. The club had to have a new attitude, and it just did not. They needed to do something really out there, like having a non-smoking room. Surveys said to me that people wanted the place, but it had to earn them. Sadly Diamonds never provided that reason.

What will happen next? I really don’t know, but I would expect that someone will eventually buy the place out and start again. I am sure it could be as big as it used to be, but there needs to a new attitude. With the Hallam Hotel doing record crowds, and clubs like Jooce bouncing back, I think the demand is there, and the history certainly is. I hope someone does buy it, because we of the outer south east are really going to miss it.

TIP: For those looking for a similar night, try Twister. It has just about everything Stylus had, except the band.

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