Despair has flooded many DIY circles in the weeks since the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland killed 36 people. Cities, including Denver, have shut down venues for fire and zoning code violations. There is a "national crackdown" on DIY spaces, reported the New York Times. Rumors have spread that the crackdown is coordinated, something neither Colorado Springs nor Denver officials say they have heard of. Even longstanding underground spaces have asked media outlets to stop reporting about their activities, fearing that published information would be gathered by city inspectors to justify more closures.
As we reported, the Colorado Springs DIY space Flux Capacitor shuttered its doors on Friday, after fire inspectors posted a notice stating the space was not properly zoned for shows. The building manager considered bringing the venue up to code but eventually decided not to, saying it would cost too much money.
The Flux Capacitor collective canceled some shows and rescheduled others at spaces across town.
The organizers are mad. Yes, they wish the space had stayed open. But instead of giving up, they are already looking for a new place to rent — this time, one that has the correct zoning designation.
In the midst of a national bout of DIY depression, Flux Capacitor's Bryan Ostrow put a positive spin on the closure of his group's space, in an interview with Westword. Here's what he had to say.
Westword: It sounds like you've had a hellish week.
Bryan Ostrow: Yeah. Oh, yeah. It's been a little on the stressful side, but we'll get through it.
For starters, can you walk me through the history of Flux?
Absolutely. So, the Flux Capacitor has been going on for two years now. I've been booking shows for several years now. Before Flux, I was booking at a punk-rock bar in town called the Triple Nickle. We also would occasionally throw house shows at our house. We had another friend's house called the Hostile House, where we would throw DIY shows. Then we finally got the opportunity to go into the bottom of this building and start running shows out of it. Kind of a monthly rental. We'd throw DIY shows.
The way that happened has been absolutely beyond what we expected. It's been amazing. We thought we'd do it for a few months and be on to the next thing. It's lasted two years. We really wanted to have a place where people of all kinds — of all shapes and sizes, whoever wants to be there and is stressed with their everyday life — could come to our place and be with people who feel the same way. I think we've accomplished that by tenfold. It's been a real community effort, and we've gotten to see people meet new people, form a band, play their first show here, continue on to go do tours. It's just been really awesome. That's what we've been doing in these past two years, just by creating a community.
Walk me through what happened with the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
I do want to stress: We aren't pointing fingers. We're not upset at the fire department. They do a good job on a lot of things. They just want to make sure people are safe; however, it was definitely stressful.
In the two years we have been doing this, we haven't gotten a single call to the cops. We haven't gotten a single fire-department call. We were running things safe, and we were running things in a good way. People would self-govern things. People would make sure nothing would happen. In the two years we've been running, there were four almost-fights, and they were quashed within minutes. We like to keep a safe area. We've never put people in danger. With zoning (inspectors), once they're called, they have to check and come in and see what's wrong.
What's funny and quite ironic is when Rhino shut down and when the Ghost Ship tragedy happened, we took measures to make this a safer place, not to avoid getting in trouble, but just to make things better. We actually cut up part of a wall to add a second exit. We got a bunch more fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. We really bucked up and did everything we could to make it even safer, and then we got in trouble anyway, so...
The fire department told me the reason you were kicked out was not because of any life-threatening fire code violations, but because your space had the wrong zoning classification. Can you address that from your perspective?
Absolutely. Flux, for about ten years, has been practice studios. There is an upstairs area with several studios where bands play monthly. Downstairs there are a few studios that bands rent as well. We essentially rent a really big room — an 850-square-foot room — to throw shows in. We've just been throwing shows in there, and it's been good. Now that the fire department got called in, they found out it isn't zoned properly. It's supposed to be zoned for storage at the moment, and we don't have the proper zoning to be throwing events, or "assemblies," as they would technically call it.
We were trying to get the zoning the proper way, and we were on board to do it, and the building manager was as well, but then he found out that in order to do that, he wouldn't be rezoning that room; he'd be rezoning the entire building, installing up-to-date sprinklers, and tens of thousands, maybe a hundred-thousand dollars of things that would need to be changed to get it zoned. It makes sense that it wouldn't really be in the interests of the landlords to do that.
They've been helping us find other buildings that are zoned property. They've been in support of us. I can't expect them to shell out that much for a couple punk shows. I wish they could, but... (laughs)
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I mean, we could get really angry or sad about this situation, which, of course we are, but that's not going to do anything. If we really want to fight back and we want to do something and share the same energy that we've had, we just need to be positive and get a new place as soon as we can and keep it going instead of just dwelling on it.
I think that's what a lot of the problem with the world is. It's just saying, "We have a problem, and I'm going to talk about my problem, but I'm not going to do anything to fix it."
We're just going to fix it and keep going.