Main Street’s Little Mountain Gallery has found itself in financial dire straits after running afoul of the city’s zoning bylaws, which prevent it from hosting live music events.
Ehren Salazar, one of the principals of the gallery, located at 195 East 26th Avenue, said the space had been hosting, on average, two concerts a week for the past two-and-a-half years. But following noise complaints, the concerts have ceased. Salazar is in the process of working with the city’s office of cultural affairs in refining an application for rezoning the space as a legitimate theatre.
“It’s still difficult to make your way through all of the city-hall bureaucracy,” he said. “They’ve told us it would be a pretty unprecedented scenario if we were able to go from a DIY space to a legit theatre. In my mind it’s a 50-50 chance. But it’s probably less than that.”
The gallery is holding silent art auctions from Friday to Sunday (November 12 to 14) to raise funds, as well as a fundraising show December 10 at the Rickshaw Theatre. In the meantime, Salazar said, “It’s kind of hampered our ability to make rent.”¦We’re in the tractor beam of the city, because we’re zoned only as retail.”
David Duprey, owner of the Rickshaw as well as the Narrow Lounge and Grace Gallery at East 3rd Avenue and Main Street, said the loss of Little Mountain Gallery would be a blow to the city. “The venue’s fantastic. It’s incredibly important.”¦ What they’ve done, if they walked in [to City Hall] right now and said, ”˜We want to start this little club in the back of this retail store in a residential neighbourhood,’ at the inquiry desk, they’d be laughed out of existence. It would never happen, which is why something like that is so important that it remains.”
He urged Little Mountain Gallery’s owners to address the zoning issue as quickly as possible. “The city is definitely stepping up—there’s no two ways about it,” he said, noting that city staff are undertaking a review of zoning laws to make it easier for live-performance venues to operate, and have reached out to Little Mountain Gallery. “The office of cultural affairs is working really hard with them to get them legal, and the process that that entails, with change of usage and change of zoning.”¦But then it falls on the people who are operating the place to step up and be legitimate.”
The office of cultural affairs is expected to present the first of a series of bylaw revisions to council in the first quarter of 2011. Staff deferred comment until after the bylaw revisions are completed.