Noise bylaws threaten Main Street’s Little Mountain Gallery

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.



Lucas Schuller

Nov 10, 2010 at 9:15pm

For the last few years Little Mountain has been the best viable venue for small local independant artists to exhibit and perform creative work. It's loss would create a huge whole in the already embarassingly short list of venues. If the city is serious about supporting the creative class in Vancouver, finding a way to reasonably license LMG would be an important signal.

Marc L'Esperance

Nov 12, 2010 at 5:50pm

Time for the City Of Vancouver to step up to the plate.

Support and flexibility must be shown for independent artists and venues that (attempt to) thrive outside the usual grant/subsidy system.

This is aside from the fact that Vancouver does not have ONE dedicated music centre. 'World Class City'? As long as you don't think a music community is necessary.. Dance, Film, Theatre, Visual Arts all have government-supported and subsidized venues to access. The Music community has NONE.

Let's please also address some of the stupider rules that city hall liquor inspectors still enforce.. like no dancing to music played in a restaurant. Not everyone wants to go to a drinking establishment to enjoy good music and dance.

Vancouver needs a music revolution.


Nov 14, 2010 at 2:19am

For too long it is has been a whiny minority of people who have dictated city policy around noise and music; one or two irrational, uncultured, 'be-in-bed-by-10pm' complainers can shut down something that hundreds support.

Let the musicians play!

It is this simple: if you choose to live near an artery in a vibrant neighbourhood (i.e Main Street) you need to accept what comes along with it. There are 1000's of square kilometers you can move to in this province if you all you want silence.

Thankfully it seems the city has clued-in...and changes are on the horizon.

Pietro Sammarco

Nov 14, 2010 at 1:47pm

Marc, extremely good point: "Not everyone wants to go to a drinking establishment to enjoy good music and dance."

The city is basically saying you need to be drunk to dance! How ridiculous is that?!!

Maudern, I don't think it is necessarily a "simple" fact that people can "choose" to live in the contexts they do. Society isn't a static network, but always changing--an ecology. If any part of the situation can be somewhat "simplified", I think it's bringing together all sides to try to work together on a solution--being sensitive to the different OPINIONS on the problems. As long as we villainize one side ("noisy, imposing" musician or "uncultured, sleepy, poor-sported" neighbours), nothing sustainable will be accomplished.

Having said this, my opinion is that as Lucas says, we have a real embarrassingly short list of small, indie music venues for bands that aren't able to fill places like the commodore... so a place like LMG needs all the help it can get

Ryan McCormick

Nov 15, 2010 at 4:18pm

Not to be nitpicky, but the headline of this article cites the Noise Bylaw but the content mostly talks about the Zoning Bylaw. There are also issues with capacity, business licensing, fire code and alcohol that could be thrown in the mix. With all these regulations all working together in perfect dis-harmony, it's no wonder it was hard to put it all down in a cohesive article. This is the "city-hall bureaucracy" that Salazar is talking about. Duprey mentions the that the City is making an effort to review these stifling regulations, but from what I've heard, this regulatory review is completely understaffed, overworked, and way behind schedule. Please urge City Hall to put whatever resources are required into the review before more of our precious DIY spaces are shut down.


Nov 22, 2010 at 10:44pm

Legitimacy costs money, which is something neither Little Mountain nor the scene it supports has plentiful amounts of. Little Mountain's owners don't have a personal pool of money at hand from which to scoop up the funds necessary to legitimize the space. LMG does not operate to make a profit. It's more like a community centre.
The artists who perform at Little Mountain are not doing so to get ahead in the music business or even make a living, but simply for the base joy of gathering communally to share music. Many shows barely take in enough door money to meet even the minimum daily cash amount required to pay the rent every month.
The city should be de-regulating not-for-profit cultural ventures like Little Mountain Gallery instead of taxing these types of spaces with exorbitant fees like they would a for-profit business. Not everything needs to have an economical value to merit existence in our society.


Dec 11, 2010 at 12:41am

Seems like something to check before you hold concerts in a retail location.