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Local venues closing may impact music community

Former Walnut Creek venue Red House closed during renovation of music school in lieu of a venue for live performances on December 18, 2016. Kayla Rojas/The Inquirer

Former Walnut Creek venue Red House closed during renovation of music school in lieu of a venue for live performances on December 18, 2016. Kayla Rojas/The Inquirer

Kayla Rojas, Staff Member

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A devastating fire broke out in an Oakland warehouse dubbed “Ghost Ship” in December, taking the lives 36 young professionals and artists. The tragedy was due in part to the dilapidated state of the building, inadequate fire exists and failure to adhere to safety protocols. Residents, and property owners are still shaken by this and as a result similar venues are in danger of shutting down.

Following the incident, Jamie Ziwinski, owner of the San Francisco based DNA Lounge, released an online statement on Dec. 19 saying that the all ages venue was in danger of closing. The statement read that Ziwinski was at risk of not being able to afford the rent in part because he own a second venue, Codeword.

While money could be the issue, it seems all too suspicious that this problem arose after the Ghost Ship tragedy.

“And in this city, historically notorious for its hostility to small businesses in general and to nightlife in particular, I think places like this need to exist. Places like this matter. The value of a thing is not its monetary cost.” Ziwinski said.

It wasn’t only DNA Lounge that was affected. Shortly after Ghost Ship, Johnny V’s in San Jose, a local dive bar and venue was abruptly shut down. Burnt Ramen in Richmond has also since been closed after failing a safety protocol inspection mandated by the city.

Near by Walnut Creek venue and music school Red House later fell victim as well. Once a sanctuary for local bands to get their start and build a following, the well-loved spot had it’s final show the week of December 18th after failing to secure a new lease.

“What people don’t realize is that the Bay Area is rich in history with music and arts. Spirit matters, and it helps younger musicians realize that this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and these venues give them validity of what it feels like to be on stage,” said Glenn Molina, Bay Area resident and bassist of local island music band Wakane. “We’re in a time where we need some outlet for expression.”

Another concern is the fact that closing down venues may lead to more unsafe activity in an attempt to keep the scene going. “If legitimately permitted places like DNA close down, it forces the scene back underground which means more illegal, unsafe venues that aren’t up to code,” Says local EDM DJ Robert Pan. “…Undergrounds are great for the cultural aspect, but you risk so much when you don’t think about things like safety exits or paramedics onsite if someone gets hurt or suffers from an overdose… The youth is the future, and we encourage SAFE partying.”

For many local or up and coming musicians, these smaller venues serve as a kick starter to their career. They have a greater sense of community to them. Places like these matter. They bring together people from all walks of life.

Some fear that if we lose more local venues the music community will slowly start to die off, and bands will lose places to play. And for many new artists, house shows simply won’t cut it.

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Local venues closing may impact music community