Zoo Zhop, a record shop in the Downtown Eastside that also doubles as an underground concert venue, is working hard to keep its back doors open and hoping that a resolution can quickly be made with the city.
The store, at 223 Main St., has been hosting all-ages concerts in its backroom studios since it opened in 2009, despite being unable to obtain a permit. All appeared to fine until May 30, when an inspector from the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Department cited the record store with 14 safety violations, including unsatisfactory exit signage, lack of outlet covers and a need for more electrical outlets.
Owner David Mattatall said most of the violations were minor and all were fixed within three days, but the city is still not allowing him to host concerts inside his shop. He believes the city is trying to force him into purchasing a license he simply cant afford.
Were in Oppenheimer-Chinatown, if the fire department were dutiful, half of these buildings would be condemned, Mattatall said. We have sprinklers, we have alarms, were not a fire hazard. Look at some of the slums around us. Its partly a political manoeuvre to try to get us to get a license Weve tried to get a license before but theyve made the barrier [to entry] impossible. It would cost us nearly $30,000.
Mattatall has been working with Diana Leung, the new cultural planner for the city, for alternative options.
Mattatall believes increased pressure from the city is indicative of a lack of support Vancouver has shown its arts community The Waldorf Hotel, Rhizome CafÃ© and several other venues shut down earlier this year, while others such as VIVO have been renovicted.
If you just want to go to Granville Street and get drunk, then Vancouver is amazing. If youre concerned with fostering local arts, then theres a lot of room for improvement, Mattatall said. If you look at how many VPD officers are hired to patrol Granville at night, its obvious that Vancouver wants the city to be fun, and theyve said when and where thats OK.
Mattatall started an online petition in support of Zoo Zhop, which as of Monday had 2,362 signatures. While the petition is unlikely to sway city staff, Mattatall appreciates the support and feels it legitimizes his complaints. Several concerts at the Zoo Zhop were cancelled, but a show was held last Friday. Mattatall said that a fire marshall showed up partway through the bands set, and Mattatall showed him the repairs they had made. Afterwards, the marshall left and the show resumed.
If were allowed to do shows, Ill work with the city, Mattatall said. If were not allowed, its going to be hard to bite my lip and work with the city again. Im sure Vancouver will recover [if we close]. Aside from being an all-ages venue, weve always tried to be accessible. Anyone can book a show with us, we dont look at whos cool or popular, and we dont take money up front. There are not many places where kids can book their own shows thats what Vancouver is losing, and I think that would suck.