The Jade has long been a staple of Adelaide’s music scene and nightlife. It’s seen live music aplenty, creative readings, album launches, weddings, birthdays, and plenty of other varied events besides. Recently, Liam McNally sat down with Jade owner Zac Coligan to talk about the Jade’s history, it’s unique style, and even the establishment’s year-long absence as they moved venue.
You’ve been here for a while now. How much has the business changed over that time?
A fair bit. When we first moved in, we were expecting the older model of 95% live music and so we’ve set this room up, double insulated the roof. We do get lots of live music still but a lot of it is special occasions. I think some younger bands are a bit intimidated by this room. We get a lot of CD launches and things like that. In saying that, we’ve got a bunch of gigs happening. But what it’s morphed into is a lot more of a café culture here as well.
And perhaps more of an events space as well?
Yeah. People start to hear about us – and for us, it’s always word-of-mouth. We get a lot of different theatre shows, and seminars, and Music SA have done a lot of things here with guest speakers. We’ve got much more diverse events here which has been great.
This space is here to be used and it’s really quite a good space for all sorts of things. Especially quieter events.
How different is it to the old venue? (The Jade Monkey, on Twin Street).
When we initially started it (the Twin Street venue), we didn’t realise when we got our licence, we could only open from 9pm. We got an extension after a few years. It was a night time thing. And it was all about gigs. Every week there was two or three gigs on.
We’re mixing it up a lot more here because the space is a bit more flexible, whereas the old Jade was about the live music scene fundamentally.
Was there a conscious choice in changing the nature of the venue? You call it the Jade now rather than the Jade Monkey.
To be honest, we dropped the ‘monkey’ because my lovely wife Naomi hated that for years.
It was an interesting decision when we set up this place because we wanted to make it bright, and maybe ‘prettier’, if you will. It’s interesting as when you do a place like that, it kind of evokes the style of clientele you have. We get a good range here. Most people feel comfortable. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious shift but at the same time we wanted to entertain everything. And that’s the way it’s rolled, to be honest.
We made a real effort with this space. It’s a great spot for bands and it sounds wonderful in here.
Where did the name come from?
Initially it was because it was hidden little space and there’s that whole thing behind finding the jade monkey which is also a Simpsons joke.
How did bringing the food van, Phat Buddha Rolls, in change things?
It’s made a huge difference. We do everything ourselves, Naomi and I. There aren’t many places when it’s just two people running a venue, particularly of this size. We did food at first and it was very time consuming and difficult to get the numbers out quick. We did it for a little while and then went, ‘you know what? Let’s just outsource it’. We decided to approach Fork on the Road and get a food truck. It’s been really, really good.
It’s been about bringing people here to sit down and have a coffee, for us. And to bring people to sit down in the afternoon, to have a café culture, you need food.
What kind of difference has the location had?
[The proximity to] Rundle Mall didn’t have any advantage to us at all at the old Jade. We were only really open after 9pm as well. I feel that with this place because we’re lucky enough to have a really nice garden, and we’re set back from the road, people are often a bit confused about what’s going on. We’re not fans of putting a big ‘$10 parmi’ sign on the front. Every day we get someone who comes in and says they’ve walked past the place 50 times and now they’ve come in the door. Once we get them in the door we usually get them back.
Having a garden makes a huge difference. People love hanging out here. In summer, it’s just wonderful. A good space to be.
There are more separated spaces here than there were at the old place.
And that’s a huge difference for me. When you were part of the old Jade, you were part of the gig. If the gig bombed, you felt that. If the gig went off, you felt that. Now because [the bar is] separate [to the performance space] you still feel it but it’s a different thing.
It’s really good in that respect because you can have the front bar open all the time. People can just drop by for a drink any time they like but also you can have your own space here where everyone’s here to see the band.
How did that changeover period between the Twin Street venue and here go?
It took us a year. A lot of the problems were finding a space but also a year before we started looking at this place, a club called Heaven had been started here and terrorised the neighbourhood. They ended up in court and then they did a runner. We still saw some bills coming in that weren’t for us.
The neighbours didn’t want us here. I reckon there were about six months of roundtable discussions with liquor licencing. It was us against the residents, the church, and an architecture firm across the road.
We just persisted and they gave up in the end because we made a good case but they were trying to wait us out to get us to not do what we were doing.
People ask me about that time, did I think it was going to happen again? I had no doubts it was going to happen again. I didn’t know when.
The last weekend of the old Jade was a big event.
We did a big final weekend. I just handpicked all the bands I wanted to play. It was good. It was a really fun weekend. My manager here now, Josh, played on the Thursday night with his band, the Funky Scum Rumour. I got some rock bands like BTA and indie bands like Steering by Stars and my band, The Sea Thieves, played on the Sunday. It was a good way to see it out.
Considering your neighbours in the St Paul’s Creative Space, does that have an impact in who tends to come here?
We’ve done a lot of good things with those guys. And they’ll come over and say they want to do something and we go yeah. We’ve got a really good relationship with them. It’s funny because lots of people I’ve known for years in the music industry are working next door.
As far as neigbours go, couldn’t be any better.
They take up the lion’s share of the building so we wouldn’t have moved in without something like that next door. You don’t want someone starting a club there. Not that they’d be able to. There’s no way anyone’s going to do that ever again because they’ll end up in court before they start.
Did you get to have such a diversity of events at the old place – like spoken word events?
We did, but to be honest, the old place was all about the local music scene. So that’s what we had going on. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, we had gigs. We did have some spoken word nights though. We were 100% reliant on the event to make our money for the night. We still are to a certain degree here but we’re already open every Thursday and Friday night regardless of whether we’ve got something on or not. You can take a bit more of a punt as well. Some band gets in touch with us and says they’ve never done a gig before and they want to go a gig. We can go ‘sure, maybe a Thursday night, see how it goes and go from there.’ It’s even better for us here because we don’t have to concern ourselves whether they bring 300 people or ten. It obviously helps but it makes it a bit easier to entertain that.
We definitely had to rethink the nights we gave people at the old place because that’s 100% what we were about [there]. Bands brought people, we made money, they didn’t, we made no money.
We’re separate rent, separate tenancy – everyone thought we’re on some government-funded thing which was quite annoying because we are not at all. It’s all down to us.
Words by Liam McNally
Thanks to Zac Coligan.
Pictures: The Jade Facebook page