Sammy's to Be Someone Else's

Sammy's to Be Someone Else's

After 35 years of owning Crawford Street venue Sammy’s, the Chin family wants “younger people with new, fresh ideas” to step in. Sam Chin, the owner of Sammy’s, says he wants “new energy” and is “open to any new ideas” in terms of the venue’s future. Chin is not concerned whether it is sold or leased, and would even consider simply handing over to new management. He would like to see a group effort towards managing the venue, similar to his family’s approach to date.

Chin places a high value on his beloved venue, saying “we have been told we are one of the top four venues nationwide.” Critic speculates this claim may be from the 80s. Despite undergoing substantial renovation in 2008, Chin admits it will need “a wee bit of work” following a bad lessee he had a few years ago. The damage caused apparently took “two months of 100-hour weeks to [fix].

“I wouldn’t mind it being turned into a dinner-and-show type thing,” says Chin. Sammy’s used to get a full house with their $25 three-course dinner and cocktail nights, including the likes of Tony Christie and Billy T James. Chin told Critic that Billy was “a good guy,” and proudly mentioned the photo he has of the icon himself, complete with personalised message: “To Sammy, by the hair of my Edi Chin Chin, Billy.” Eddie Chin is Sam’s father.

The venue was built in 1896 as an Agricultural Hall and was renamed Her Majesty’s in 1902. The Chin family called it Sammy’s in 1983 “as a bit of joke because of my name, but it just stuck for 30 years.”

Since the 1980s Sammy’s has hosted a long list of acts; some impressive, others not so much. The Pogues, Dave Dobyn, Jewels, Angels, Sweepback, The Veils, Hello Sailor and, just to mix things up, Manpower Australia (who brought in the crowds with a strip show that has now made it in Las Vegas) have all contributed to what is now quite a legacy. Sam says that Hoodoo Gurus, who performed in 1986, remain “the loudest band I [have] ever heard.”

For now, Sammy’s will not be shutting down. “A lot of gigs are still to come,” says Chin. Katchafire are playing next Friday, and Neutral Milk Hotel in November.

Sam enjoys hosting high school after-balls at which minors are allowed a limited amount of alcohol. Police and the Dunedin City Council have agreed to the scheme, providing that parental consent and extra supervision are provided. “I welcome the police in and encourage them to stop by when they drive past,” he said. Sam also explains that the after-balls are “not to make a profit. They are just a safe place for the young ones to have a good time.”

Sam welcomes the University balls (primarily because they pay the bills), and describes them as “messy but a lot of fun.” The Law Ball is the next to be held at Sammy’s and “is most probably always the worst.”

As he looks beyond Sammy’s, Mr Chin says he will be helping his brother, Henry, to rebuild the recently-destroyed Tai Ping fish and chip shop.

For now at least, Sammy’s will be staying put, but Critic hopes it will not head down the same path as the Cook. The Robbie Burns lease is set to expire soon and will not be renewed, and Poppa’s is also up for sale. Sadly, the future looks bleak for some of the old Dunedin favourites.

This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2013.
Posted 2:29pm Sunday 11th August 2013 by Josie Cochrane.