“We’ll be back”: ATET vows to return after fire rips through nightclub
The floating venue said news of the blaze had “hit us hard” but promised to return after damage on their barge did not spread throughout.
A blaze has ripped through floating Docklands nightclub ATET, causing damage to the venue in a stunning latest development to the controversial three-month-old night spot.
Seven Fire Rescue Victoria vehicles responded to calls at around 4.30am on the morning of Tuesday, January 31 to find the club, which operates on a commercial barge, on fire.
They worked quickly to extinguish the flames with the situation declared under control within six minutes, and no-one was on the boat at the time. Multiple calls were made to Triple Zero at the time, including by motorists on the Bolte Bridge.
Witness Ellie told Docklands News she could hear little commotion on North Wharf aside from fire sirens.
“When I heard the sirens, I thought it was our building on fire then I followed the fire trucks from the window which ended up at ATET,” the No.1 Collins Wharf resident said.
“I was quite shocked to see that. I didn’t hear any screaming or yelling. Even after they put out the fire, I could see the fireman’s torch lighting up the smoke. Eventually, after one hour it was quiet again.”
In a statement posted to social media alongside a photo of damaged sections of the venue, ATET said that they were “beyond relieved” that the fire took place without anyone inside the venue and that all staff were safe.
“This morning we woke up to the devastating news that our beautiful barge caught fire,” ATET said.
Our whole team has put their heart and soul into this venture so this has hit us hard … it will take us some time to regroup but the good news is the fire and damage was localised and it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
ATET extended their “deepest gratitude” to those who called in the fire, and said they were “forever indebted” to emergency services who they said contained and saved their venue, which is insured.
While there was significant damage to furniture and roof covers, ATET staff believed the damage could have been far worse.
The venue had CCTV cameras operating on the site, which the police used immediately as part of their investigation, while there are other Development Victoria (DV) and City of Melbourne-operated cameras throughout the precinct.
ATET vowed to return, in time.
“We are still processing what happened here and would appreciate your understanding in this confusing time … rest assured, we’re not done, and we’ll be back soon!”
Within hours of the incident, arson detectives were at the scene to determine whether the blaze was deliberately lit.
Speculation online immediately turned to whether a disgruntled local was responsible for the blaze, however at the time of publication both Fire Safety Victoria and Victoria Police said the cause of the fire was yet to be determined.
ATET has attracted a significant level of noise complaints from locals since opening in late October, and tensions have remained high.
The unique floating nightclub — situated around 270 metres from the closest apartment towers at Yarra’s Edge and Victoria Harbour, and 300 metres to the north at NewQuay — is open until 1am on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp was contacted after the blaze, however, did not comment pending the ongoing police investigation.
In December, ATET was approved by the City of Melbourne to extend its operating hours to Sundays, and soon after the approval began trading across the weekend.
Its bid to trade until 1am on Sunday evenings, however, was cut back to 11pm.
More than 400 people objected to the proposal in what was another closely watched council decision, however Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said enforcing an 11pm closing time was “the earliest possible time” it could restrict ATET’s operating hours under the local planning scheme.
The council did, however, announce a set of noise restriction it described as the “strictest” it has applied in recent times.
It installed a “noise limiter” device — operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week — that it said measured and limited the amount of noise coming from ATET against the noise thresholds required by the EPA.
If at any point the noise exceeded the thresholds, the noise limiter automatically turned down the volume from speakers and amplifiers at the venue.
The council also put in place a “belt and braces” measure that ensured the noise limiter would be located in a locked box and only be accessed by the qualified sound engineer who sets up the device.
If the device is switched off or tampered with, the venue would “automatically be subject to fines”.
Cr Reece said the move was “the strictest and most onerous noise restrictions I’ve ever seen on a venue in Melbourne”.
Since the council decision in December and prior to the January 31 fire, it was unclear how effective the noise reduction methods had been.
Community backlash remained online, however the venue itself said negative sentiment had reduced throughout the weeks leading up to the January 31 fire.
The nightclub was originally proposed to operate at the western tip of North Wharf near the Bolte Bridge but remained based at a temporary location near Shed 2 while DV completed restoration works at the wharf’s end.
The move to the end of the wharf was hoped to provide affected residents with added reprieve from any ongoing noise impacts.
These works were not expected to be completed until mid-2023, a timeline the Deputy Lord Mayor said was too slow.
“I would have liked that process to have moved faster than it has,” he said in December. •