The Shannon’s building on Ann St was built in 1924 -1925 and designed by renowned Brisbane architect E.P.Trewern. The building contributed to the 1920’s commercial streetscape in this area of Fortitude Valley. The building was initially designed with six shops on ground level and four first floor residential apartments, it is apparent however that the apartments were not built. Instead a large warehouse/factory space was created on the first floor. Perhaps it was deemed more viable to make a space for manufacturing. 711 Was leased to various clothing manufacturers, including Harris & Co from 1927 – 1933, Olsens from 1937 into the 1950’s. Many of the original features of the building remain, including lead light windows in the downstairs shop entrances, exterior tiling, intricate brick work within the façade, timber sash windows on the first floor and street awning.
Fast forward 40 years…
11th Dec 1992, 711 Ann St transformed yet again – into The Zoo, opening it’s doors as a b.y.o cafe and pool hall. Joc & C, the owner/managers, have poured all their considerable energy and love into this place, and with the sheer force of their indefatigueable wills, have created a fantastic cult venue that has hosted the likes of The Pixies, Gomez, Tortoise, Mogwai, Nick Cave and the Dirty Three, Ben Harper, Stephen Malkmus, Real Estate, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Silverchair, Regurgitator, Spiderbait, Powderfinger, Emilaini Torrini, Lorde, Parquet Courts and hundreds – if not thousands – of other local, national and international artists and special events.
The girls, way back in ´91, decided one night over a game of pool that Brisbane had a considerable lack of laidback, vibrant places to hang out, and that something had to be done about it. Both were photographers by trade, they thought a café where art would grace the walls was something Brisvegas would embrace.
Inspired by the scene in Melbourne, they applied for a government funded program for new small businesses (SEVS NEIS), after six attempts to finish their business plan they did so and received the grant. This was the beginning of the Zoo journey. With rents being extremely high in the city CBD it forced the girls to look abroad for a venue, after six months of disappointment they finally ended up in the Valley – and on one fateful Thursday morning they stumbled into the Zoo space and knew they had found their adoptive home.
The nature of their management is to take a nurturing role in the music and arts worlds, and so the Zoo became home to a community of hundreds of developing musicians and visual performance artists. Over the years, Zoo staff (often struggling artists themselves – members of Violent Soho, Powderfinger, Regurgitator, Gota Cola, Toothfaeries, Resin Dogs, and Butterfingers and plenty more have all been on the payroll). Artists & performers and the friendly resident ghosts have become a family. All work together to make the Zoo a vibrant place where ethics, creativity and community come first.
The Zoo Army is the name given to the group of people who rallied around Joc & C and the Zoo when the local council attempted to close the venue down in 1996. The team included builders, architects, councilors, family and friends. Bands played fundraisers (both here and in Melbourne at the Punters Club). Publicity and promotion workers got the word out about the crisis the Zoo was under and merchandising people and screen printers made Zoo army t-shirts for free. (Power to the People – was the logo used to empower the Zoo Army and it’s cause in saving the Zoo). Artists donated their work for a fund raiser auction. Local businesses, bands, family and friends all contributed to the sponsor-a-stair campaign. Where by each person bought a stair. Still to this day there are plaques on the front stairs to prove this support.
It was a trying time that took almost a year to endure, but hell, it gave some credence to the adage that people united will never be defeated… and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
We have no dress code, and everybody is welcome. You do need to wear shoes to protect your feet. We do call ourselves a “Please and Thank You” establishment, whereby we simple ask customers to remember – when you are ordering drinks simple manners go a long way with Zooies. People in wheel chairs are more than welcome, but you will need to call ahead so our friendly Zoo staff can help carry you up the wonderful Zoo Stairs.
Fast forward to 2015 – the Zoo is in it’s 23rd year and still going strong. Many names and faces have changed but the Zoo ethos remains. Joc, who is now a mother to 13 year old Walt works at the Zoo full time in the role of venue booker and manager. Along with an amazing supportive team – who can be viewed in the Zooie section. C is working as a graphic designer on the Sunshine Coast and looking after her beautiful daughter Coco and enjoying the role of mother.
We don’t know what the future will bring but we hope there will always be a role the Zoo can play in the live music scene in Brisbane. Over the last few years we have tried to develop nights to encourage and promote the younger and newer bands on the scene.
Because everyone has to start somewhere…Hopefully that will be here at the Zoo with us.