Friday, December 23, 2016

Burnt Ramen

Richmond artists to city: “Stop the Witch Hunt!”

Supporters of underground performance space ask city to collaborate with them to keep venue open to the public

Supporters of an unpermitted performance space in Richmond protesting city’s recent decision to shutter the venue. Karina Ioffee

RICHMOND — Supporters of a longtime underground performance space and recording studio protested outside of Richmond City Hall and spoke out during a City Council meeting on Tuesday night to criticize the building’s closure in what that they described as a “witch hunt” by authorities in the wake of the Oakland warehouse fire.

More than 100 friends of Burnt Ramen, an unpermitted warehouse in central Richmond that was shuttered last week, flooded a City Council meeting to urge the city to work with the owner and reopen the venue they said was much-needed for local youths.

Supporters of an unpermitted performance space in Richmond protesting city’s recent decision to shutter the venue. Karina Ioffee 

“It’s underground spaces like Burnt Ramen that saved my life when I was a teenager and helped me find my voice,” said Jason Storm, of San Francisco, one of more than 25 supporters who spoke.

The unpermitted building has hosted hundreds of punk, metal and other music shows, and also has a recording studio. It was red-tagged last week after Richmond Mayor Tom Butt pointed it out to authorities. It is one of two places in Richmond where artists and musicians have been evicted.

Two weeks ago, artists at Bridge Storage and Art Studios, a Richmond storage facility converted into art studios, were also asked to leave, after the city determined that space heaters used inside studios, in the absence of a central heating system, could overload the wiring system.

Speakers at Tuesday’s meeting said that Burnt Ramen has served as a “safe space” for many young people and downplayed the fact that it was commercially zoned, saying it has also had residential uses in the past. Brandon Bailey, a tenant at Burnt Ramen, said that in recent weeks the owner has installed lighted exit signs, 30 fire extinguishers and made other fixes. (The building also has four exits.)

“They’re taking advantage of the Ghost Ship tragedy to kick people out of their homes,” Bailey said.
Richmond fire Chief Adrian Sheppard said the city is preparing a list of items the performance space needs to improve in order to comply with fire codes. It is also not the first time the city has visited the venue.

“We were in there three years ago and told them to not put on shows, but they didn’t listen to us,” Sheppard said. “Our responsibility is for the health and safety of the tenants and the people who attend the shows there.”

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