Biltmore’s in a bind

Update: The Biltmore is open for business. Scheduled shows for Friday, August 29 and Saterday, August 30 will go ahead as scheduled. See The the Straight's music blog for details.

On August 22, after the Biltmore Cabaret was closed by the city for a week, owner Zak Pashak posted an open letter on his Facebook page to Vancouver city councillors, stating that the club, at 395 Kingsway, was receiving “excessive and punitive” treatment.

“The amount of heat being put on us is completely out of scale,” he wrote. “We are a well run, well intending bar that wants to do good things here in Vancouver, and we are following the rules.”

The trouble began during a show by Bison BC on August 15, when the club was shut down for exceeding its maximum occupancy of 352 people. On August 18, four hours before a concert by Josh Radin, property-use inspector Marcus VonMinden told Biltmore Cabaret general manager Josh Jenkins—who described VonMinden as “very helpful”—that the cabaret could not reopen without a new occupancy load, and that the bar required a new floor plan due to cosmetic changes that were made prior to the Biltmore’s grand opening in December 2007. The concert was moved to Richard’s on Richards and the Biltmore’s doors have been closed ever since.

When the club was granted its new occupancy load on August 21, Biltmore consultant Clint Moroz said he was told by Ron Dyck, assistant manager of the building inspection branch of the City of Vancouver, that the club needed a building permit for changes to the sound booth and stage height. Dyck told him it would take seven to 10 days to process.

“And that’s when I wrote the letter to [Coun.] Peter Ladner,” Pashak said in a call to the Straight. “He didn’t get back to me, so I went public with it.”

Ladner made contact with the Biltmore on August 25. While strongly rejecting some of the statements in Pashak’s letter, he expressed sympathy, telling the Straight, “We should not be taking this long to do routine processing of documents.”¦Bear in mind, though, this all started because he built something without a permit.”

In his letter, however, Pashak claimed, “We made non-structural changes and we increased the size of the stage, but it was approved already.”

On August 26, Dyck told the Straight, “That’s his interpretation, but it’s obviously not the city’s. Cosmetic work is one thing, but when you do any changes to a public-assembly building, you better make sure it’s gonna be safe.”

Moroz offered a hopeful note, telling the Straight he was working with the architectural firm KMBR Architects Planners Inc. to supply city hall with the appropriate drawings, along with the application for a permit. “They have to follow their own regulations,” he said, noting that the changes to the building were made during the 2007 civic workers strike.

“At the moment there’s basically this huge dispute, involving everybody from city hall to the architects, about whether this stage needs a building permit. The whole place is shut down because this stage is 16 inches tall, but the city asked for it, and they have a right to get it. My stance is we will do anything we need to do.”

Check or the Biltmore’s Facebook page for updates.