Clampdown on all-ages venues
It is no great surprise that the recent nightclub deaths in Chicago and in West Warwick, R.I., have had some local repercussions, and rightfully so. After all, live-music fans should be interested in some level of safety. We all want to see our favorite live bands, but it’s not the kind of thing anyone would want to die for. What is unfortunate, though, is the way in which the ripples of the Chicago stampede and Rhode Island fire have reached the Sacramento live-music scene.
Saturday night, onelinedrawing, fronted by former local performer Jonah Matranga, returned for a sold-out show at the True Love Coffeehouse. Unfortunately, a bevy of fire-department and police officials had other plans, including an on-the-spot lowering of the occupancy limit for the True Love that left live-music fans staggering.
It was the third in a series of similar capacity redesignations by local officials—an effort that has so drastically limited attendance of live-music events as to leave some venues pondering whether they can remain open at all. At a minimum, these are policy hurdles that the venues will need to overcome. In a worst-case scenario, they could be a crippling blow to Sacramento’s flourishing all-ages music scene.
At this point, it appears that all the redesignations were brought against all-ages and 18-and-over live-music venues: the Boardwalk, Capitol Garage and now True Love Coffeehouse. Why these clubs have been targeted is unclear, particularly when local watering holes that do not feature live music (including the Blue Cue and the Monkey Bar) were reported as being packed “wall to wall” over the weekend. The only clear differences between these venues and the ones targeted by local officials are that the latter are open to people under 21 and that they feature live music.
Charles Twilling, of Anodyne Entertainment, reported the official new capacity of the Capitol Garage, as of this writing, to be 84—including staff and bands. Despite obvious frustration, Twilling was positive the club could work through the situation. “We’re all-ages and supply a fun, safe environment,” he said. “We’re going to work with the city and county and do whatever we need to do to make this work for everyone.” True Love Coffeehouse’s Kevin Seconds voiced similar sentiments.
However, others, including music fans and band members, have given voice to anger and frustration. onelinedrawing’s Matranga wrote on his band’s Web board, “Fire marshals are too uppity after the hair-metal disaster. I hate it when laws are applied irrationally.” Local musician Warren Bishop commented on a local listserv that “it seems pretty clear that the city and county of Sacramento has a hard-on for music establishments. I’m guessing that no venue is safe and the crackdown is just beginning.” Scene maker Troy Wood further commented that “if you limit [True Love] to only 49 people (including employees, band members, and patrons), it will kill them.”
Some of the venues involved have meetings scheduled with local officials next week. Meanwhile, friends and fans of local music can turn to Wood’s Sacramento live-music Web site for more information at www.livejournal.com/community/sacto_bands.