Vancouver Art and Leisure music venue damaged by suspected arson

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      One of Vancouver’s premier independent music venues suffered significant exterior and interior damage after a fire broke out yesterday (January 4).

      Vancouver Art and Leisure, an artist-run location that primarily hosts electronic music events, began to burn after flames spread from several port-a-potties that had been set alight outside of the venue.

      According to a press release from the group, organizers had spoken to investigators at the scene and were found to not be at fault.  The release alleges that the cause of the fire was suspected arson.

      A tweet from the Vancouver Fire Service at 10.26 a.m. confirmed that crews were working to put out the fire at the 400 block of Alexander Street in Railtown. The blaze is thought to have begun at approximately 10.10 a.m.

      The damage has forced organizers to postpone upcoming events at the venue until they are able to determine the best course of action. The space houses more than a dozen artists who use the warehouse as subsidized studios during the day, and operates with more than 20 staff. Organizers have suggested that both groups will be consulted before determining their next steps, and that they aim to have the venue operational again within two months.

      The queer-friendly venue has begun a GoFundMe campaign to help recover its losses from the fire. Donations will be put towards four key areas: 24 hour security until the building’s electricity is fixed; provisions for the venue’s staff to cover the period they will be out of work; the cost of lost business from postponed events; and the deductible on the venue’s insurance.

      The fire is not the first adversity to hit the organization. In December 2016, thieves broke into its previous venue at 1965 Main Street and stole high-end gear including DJ mixers, digital turntables, ipads, a projector, and camera equipment. Robbers also drilled into an ATM and stole its contents, and used hydraulics to unlatch a safe bolted into concrete.

      Vancouver Art and Leisure has been based at its Railtown location (494 Alexander Street) for only a few months, after moving from its Main Street building in May last year.

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays