Regulatory changes approved by city council today could soon make life easier for live-performance organizers in Vancouver.
Under the changes supported today, more people will be allowed to attend live performance venues serving liquor, and a new centralized process for approving temporary indoor events of up to 250 people will be introduced. The city is also looking at changing liquor policies that affect live performance venues.
The changes were recommended as part of the city’s regulatory review on live performance venues that was launched in October 2009, and are intended to pave the way for non-traditional venues to be used on a temporary basis for cultural performances.
As the bylaw changes are underway, an interim program will be established to allow a probationary period for venue operators facing by-law issues to resolve concerns while enforcement action is deferred.
Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal said the implications of the regulatory changes are huge.
“I’ve never agreed that we’re a no-fun city,” she told the Straight. “I’ve always thought Vancouver’s an amazingly fun place, but we’re making it easier to have fun now.”
Senior cultural planner Jacqueline Gijssen, who presented the recommendations to council, said some of the bylaw changes approved today represent a significant change in approach for the city.
“It’s a point-8 on the Richter scale kind of shift in approach,” she told the Straight.
She added the measures approved today are some of the most critical pieces of the multi-year review that can be implemented quickly.
Ryan McCormick, the director of the Safe Amplification Site Society, told council the review represents a “historic opportunity” to fix what he called long-standing injustices in Vancouver’s music and arts communities.
But while McCormick told council he supports the measures in the report, he also expressed concern that some music venues have been shut down even as the city has been conducting the review.
“We are excited and we do think that there’s big pieces of progress, we just hope that the future phases of the report”¦will be implemented before it’s too late, before all the spaces are gone,” he said.
McCormick said he wants to see all cultural facilities considered equally. He noted there are no underground music voices represented on the city’s cultural facilities implementation team, which was used by the city for community input into the review.
“There’s only one music organization included, and that organization does classical and jazz and world music only—and with all due respect to classical and jazz fans, those aren’t the types of venue that are being shut down,” he said.
McCormick also called on council to ensure the requirements for the new streamlined licensing system for temporary live performance venues are “attainable and affordable,” for all cultural event organizers.
McCormick told the Straight he knows of four music venues that have been shut down in the last year. He said venues facing closure are typically the smaller and more affordable spaces to rent.
“Often they’re in residential neighbourhoods, which means that a single noise complaint will provoke enforcement”¦of these regulations that the venue might not have known they were even breaking in the first place,” he said.
Deal said the measures passed by council today will help to prevent venue closures in the future, as long as operators are meeting basic health and safety requirements.
“We’re not going to send an inspector around because you have one person over your occupancy limit,” she told the Straight. “The occupancy load and the fire exits has been a huge issue, and I’m really thrilled that the fire chief was here helping us say we’re going to keep you safe, but you don’t need to have all these huge restrictions on every single venue just because you’re serving a beer.”
Gijssen said the next stage of the cultural review will address broader zoning questions that impact cultural venues.
The next phase will also look at issues facing artist studios.
You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.