In just five days, a GoFundMe campaign set up for The Peel Hotel in Collingwood, has amassed over $22,000 in donations.

It’s a telling sign of what this Melbourne institution means to so many. The need for such a fundraiser should also serves as a dire warning for what we stand to lose in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Make no mistake, venues are struggling.  

The campaign, set up by ex-publican Dale Smedley, who many would know as one of the original owners of Richmond watering hole DT’s, spoke with Star Observer late last week.

“The Peel has been shut for so long now, and it costs money to keep closed and it costs money to re-open. I thought because Tom has contributed so much to our community over the years- be it the water polo team or Minus18, that it was time to turn the tables. To try to give him a little help along the way and to reassure him that yes, it is worth the effort to re-open.”

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 Opening in 1988, current owner Tom McFeely, began working at the venue in 1993. Six years later, fearing for the venue’s future, he purchased the business.

For the last 32 years, The Peel Hotel has served as an important and safe space for many in our communities. In Melbourne such spaces are becoming increasingly precious and few with many of our venues have permanently closed in recent years, Dale explained.

“The Greyhound is gone, The Exchange is gone. I think with marriage equality, people don’t feel it’s necessary to go to a gay venue because they feel quite safe no matter where they go – which is great. But if you go to a straight venue and kiss your boyfriend there, you’re still likely to get a smack in the mouth.

“I call it the Vatican of the gay community, which it is. At The Peel, you can be 18, 60 or 100 but as long as you behave yourself you can go there.” Dale adds with a chuckle.

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 The support the fundraiser has received in just five days is perhaps not surprising given how strong the sense of community still is in Melbourne. A similar campaign set up by Melbourne Rubber for the owners of nearby Laird Hotel in June having reached a similar level of success.

Tom was quite surprised when I had done it, but I thought bugger it, you’ve been doing it for so long, and you’ve done so much for everyone in the community.

Since this has gone public and since the GoFundMe page has taken off, and it’s only been a few days, it’s been overwhelming, humbling even. The amount of people who have come forward saying they would hate to see it go, and that they are more than willing to support it no matter what, and that includes ex-staff members as well as patrons. The Peel, is a real institution.”

To donate to The Peel – Memories You’ve Yet To Have, and to ensure that The Peel is there to welcome us back once this pandemic is over, click here.

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