Pub owners, musicians plead for entertainment license fee waiver

Martin Vengadesan
·5-min read
Pub owners, musicians plead for entertainment license fee waiver
Pub owners, musicians plead for entertainment license fee waiver

Beleaguered pub owners and musicians who have not been able to undertake live music events since March are appealing to the authorities to waive entertainment license fees and taxes amounting to over RM8,000 for the upcoming year.

Musician Brian Gomez who owns and operates Merdekarya in Petaling Jaya's Jalan Gasing area said the impact of eight long months had crippled the industry and there's no telling when it will end.

"We find ourselves, after eight long months of no entertainment, at 'Musim Pembaharuan Lesen''(license renewal season)'."

"Would you be so kind as to explain to entertainment outlets how you have the gall to ask us to pay RM8,000 plus in entertainment licence-renewal fees plus taxes, while at the same time disallowing entertainment?" wrote Gomez in Facebook addressed to Selangor state officials.

"It’s been eight months, and let’s be honest, it’ll likely be another eight months (science-willing) before entertainment is allowed again.

"That’s more than a year in which you, once again, have collected money for nothing while we remain in dire straits," said Gomez.

Brian Gomez
Brian Gomez

He said he did not necessarily disagree with the entertainment ban even though live music was his rice bowl and that by and large entertainment outlets have adhered to it.

"But the fact remains it is a ban that you have imposed on us, and yet you’re asking us to pay you RM8,000 plus for your permission for us to continue not to make a living.

"So, I’m asking you to waive the entertainment license fees and taxes for outlets in Selangor for 2021. It’s the logical thing to do. It’s the right thing to do," he said.

Speaking to Malaysiakini, Gomez elaborated that the fees in question are RM4,705 for an entertainment license and RM3,600 entertainment tax.

"As Merdekarya is primarily a live music venue, business has been extremely bad. Thankfully we have the F&B (food and beverages) side to generate some income, but with movement control order standard operating procedures (SOP), even that barely helps keep us afloat," he said.

He said currently, Merdekarya was fully concentrating on the F&B aspect of its business, but while the response has been great, social distancing measures mean that the income generated is very limited.

"We've not contemplated giving up on live music. It is central to our brand. We haven't even tried things like live streaming etc... it's really not what live music is about. We tried SOP-compliant gigs sometime mid-year, but let's face it - people don't go to a live music gig to be socially distant," he added.

Musicians struggling like never before

Keyboardist/vocalist Amizan Ariffin has been playing live music in the Klang Valley for the last 30 years and has never seen a situation like this before.

He said many outlets are still uncertain of rules implemented by many different municipal councils.

“Live music and deejays are already not allowed, but many more are not even permitted to play piped-in music or even broadcast entertainment on their TV screens.

"The municipal authorities concerned should also take the blame for not allowing even this form of entertainment to take place. Hence the entertainment fees should be waived."

"Hopefully by waiving the tax and fees, it will help reduce the cost incurred by these outlets," said Amizan, who added that the sector is badly affected and needs help rebuilding.

Musician Jerry Singho is the founding member of Country and Western group Os Pombos, and he expressed his frustrations that the government seems not interested in addressing the plight of musicians and entertainment outlet owners.

"Surely they have to waive the entertainment taxes for next year because most outlets hardly had any entertainment at all, which brings me to the point of ' live' music.

"I and thousands of musicians out there have not had it good at all.

"They have not given a mention about us from March to this month's budget report regarding how we could possibly go about trying to work."

Singho is unconvinced about the approach of the government that is also considering expanding Kuala Lumpur's ban on the sale of liquor at sundry and grocery shops and convenience stores as well as Chinese medicine shops to make it nationwide.

"I reckon they might make it even harder by increasing the amount for these licences instead," said a despondent Singho.

Many musicians have expressed scepticism over the sincerity of the PN administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in wanting to help preserve the live entertainment industry.

The perception was not helped when Muhyiddin joked at a PN convention on Sept 1 that it may be a good thing if pubs and nightclubs don't open at all.

Federation of Malaysian Entertainment Industry president Liew Poon Siak also expressed dismay over the remarks, saying businesses are struggling to remain afloat and Muhyiddin's statement had dealt them another blow.

This followed an incident in April when Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri was forced to acknowledge that performing artistes are badly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, after initially seeming to have brushed off any concerns about the industry.

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Posted by Brian Gomez on Thursday, November 19, 2020