After Oakland Fire, DIY Venues Across the Country Under Scrutiny

Including in cities such as Baltimore, Denver, and Nashville.
December 9, 2016, 7:19pm
Screengrab of Ghost Ship fire via Oakland Firefighters Twitter

DIY venues across the country are coming under scrutiny in the days following the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 people last Friday, December 2.

Earlier this week, The Bell Foundry, a DIY art/work space in Baltimore, was shut down by city officials citing safety violations including no valid permit, unlawful removal of beams from the ceiling, use of flammables and combustibles, and unsafe conditions. A cease-and-desist order issued by the Fire Department is preventing its residents from using the building. According to the Baltimore Sun, officials say the shutdown was not related to Oakland; they were responding to a complaint regarding the building's conditions.

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Denver DIY arts space Rhinoceropolis was also shut down yesterday (December 8) following a surprise inspection by the local Fire Department, accordig to the Denverite. In a statement made by the agency, "reports of unsafe building conditions" spurred the inspection, which revealed "numerous serious fire code violations." At least five tenants of the venue were also forced to move out.

Back in Oakland, another space has come under scrutiny. As CBS SF BayArea reports, issues of potential safety hazards at arts and entertainment venue The Salt Lick were raised on Tuesday morning (December 6) by Dorothy King, the owner of neighboring restaurant Everett & Jones BBQ. During a media gathering, King raised questions of potential fire hazards, stating: "I know for a fact there's only one way in or one way out." A statement denying this claim was published on Twitter on behalf of the artists involved with the venue.

Authorities have also shown up at or contacted DIY venues in Nashville, Nashville Scene reports, while the New York Times writes communities in other cities such as Austin, Dallas, and New Haven, though not presently experiencing venue shutdowns, are on high alert.

Amid these crackdowns, members of the DIY and artist communities—including architects, electricians, and construction workers—have created an online list of venue harm reduction tips in an effort to avoid an event like the Ghost Ship fire in the future. Another crowd-sourced platform, saferspac.es, offers resources including building services, legal assistance, and other safety information.

To date, a fundraiser for the Oakland fire victims and their families has raised over $452,000. Donate here.