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A dance music festival that was to have been held in Port Melbourne over the weekend has been cancelled by the Andrews government, leaving thousands of revellers stranded, several international DJs without a gig and event organisers out of pocket.
Almost 4000 people had bought tickets for Paradigm Festival on Saturday and Sunday, which was to have been staged in a modified warehouse and a series of large tents.
People arriving at the site of the cancelled Paradigm Festival. Credit:Wayne Taylor
Scottish DJ Will Atkinson posted an image from inside the warehouse on Thursday afternoon, when he told fans that “the stage is set – I need this bad”.
However, Victoria’s health authorities intervened on Friday afternoon.
The last-minute cancellation has blind-sided the organisers, who insisted they had complied with the state’s strict health guidelines, including a ban on dancing and a requirement that every patron remain seated.
Event director Lev Shani said he was devastated by the government’s decision to cancel the festival, which was to have been held in April last year but had faced a series of delays due to the pandemic.
The Health Department has put a stop to this weekend’s planned dance party.Credit:Wayne Taylor
Mr Shani said the government’s major events panel had recently given the dance party approval to proceed, before they were told this week that the Health Department was reconsidering the event.
“It’s really disheartening, we’ve done everything in our power and followed every single rule and introduced more control measures than required,” Mr Shani said.
“The cost was substantial, but for us, it was all about getting this event across the line.”
The proposed festival had rankled many in Melbourne’s hospitality scene, who have been forced to comply with Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions, including limits on patron numbers dependent on floor-space, with a maximum of of 300 patrons.
Prominent Melbourne restaurateur Chris Lucas, who is only permitted to have 100 diners at his flagship venue Chin Chin, said the original decision to allow a massive dance party to proceed was a “total disgrace”.
“The cafes and restaurants of Melbourne have struggled and many have gone broke, while thousands of young workers have lost their jobs. Our industry is slowly being suffocated by these never-ending lockdowns and restrictions, yet some dance party for 4000 ravers almost got the go-ahead,” Mr Lucas said.
“This just displays the incompetence of this government and its health bureaucrats. They claim we’re all in this together, but clearly we’re not.”
Andrew Sumpter, co-owner of Prahran nightclub Onesixone, urged the government to remove the conditions placed on all hospitality venues.
“I find it quite mystifying that there are still savage restrictions in place for live music venues and nightclubs. The restrictions should be immediately lifted for all entertainment venues and events,” Mr Sumpter said.
Last week, Health Minister Martin Foley baulked at a plan to increase the capacity of stadiums and theatres.
Mr Foley said the national situation was “extremely delicately poised”, with parts of New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia all forced into lockdown because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Health Department did not respond to questions from The Age by deadline.
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