By Randy LoBasso
Philadelphia’s City Council is sort of like the latest Michael Bay remake of a classic horror movie: Terrible.
I’d like to tell you all about their should-be criminal acts upon the residents of this city, like just last month raising property taxes 9.9 percent, voting to keep their free Eagles tickets (“gifts”) and forever installing the sons of former awful mayors as councilmen-at-large instead of letting them find real jobs, but I won’t. Because now they’re fucking with the local music scene.
Quoting Philadelphia City Paper sort of sucks, but credit needs to go where due. On Thursday, May 13, in their “Million Stories” piece, they broke news of an April 22nd bill (No. 100267) introduced by Councilman Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee meant to hit event promoters with new requirements and restrictions.
“Under the proposed rules,” the paper wrote, “promoters would have to apply for a permit from the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) 30 days before every single event – meaning if you promote a weekly club night, that’s 52 permit applications per year. More than just a bureaucratic nightmare, this would all but abolish last-minute shows or pickup parties. These applications would have to include detailed security plans, the promoter’s business-privilege-license number, the venue’s capacity and the expected crowd. Perhaps most importantly, the bill would hold promoters liable for the actions of the crowds at the events they promote.”
If that doesn’t sound bad enough, consider this: According to the bill’s original language, even if you file your event within the 30 days required (which assumes tiny venues like the North Star and, hell, the Danger Danger Gallery, for that matter, have the staff to deal with all these forms) the Philadelphia police have the final say over whether or not you’re able to throw your event. They could cancel your show 10 days prior, as well. That not just means local bands who’re used to jumping on a bill at the last minute can’t, but bands touring the country and stopping by Philly can get their plans changed at the last minute, completely outside of their control. (The language regarding these parts of the bill has just been changed…see below.)
Here’s from the bill’s language:
Application for such promoted event permit shall be made in writing to the captain of the police district in which the event is to take place at least thirty days prior to such event, upon a suitable form prescribed and furnished by the Commissioner. The application shall be deemed approved unless it is denied at least ten days prior to such event.
Leor Galil at True/Slant referred to the proposal as “Cultural Fascism.”
But here’s your good news. The people fought back. In a Philadelphia Weekly piece published May 19, writer Tara Murtha detailed a roundtable of musicians’ and promoters’ reactions to the bill.
Here are some of the reactions she received:
Andrew Lipke, musician and promoter:
“This is absurd. Even if everyone filed the necessary paperwork the city would never be able to review all the information and would become backlogged and overwhelmed, making the whole enterprise worthless. Besides that, what’s the reasoning? There are already strictly enforced zoning laws for the location of music venues and people are certainly allowed to throw parties with music/entertainment/alcohol in places they own.”
Brandy Hartley, venue manager, Johnny Brenda’s:
“[This bill] would put a lot of legitimate promoters and venues out of business if we would have to file paperwork for individual event permits to our local police district, who could deny the permit up to 10 days prior for any or no reason at all. Since JB’s puts on approximately 300 events per year, this requirement would be onerous not only for us, but for our local police … I also do not believe that the venue-promoter contracts should be a matter of public record … It seems as if a few out-of-hand events have led to a bill that cripples a lot of legitimate promoters and venues with its bureaucratic requirements, when what the Council really wants to do is punish a few fly-by-night promoters and special-assembly licensees. In essence, the current bill is so indiscriminate that it is akin to using a crop duster when a fly swatter would do.”
A petition was started online and signed by hordes of people (http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/bill100267). As of this writing, more than 12,000 have added their name to the list. A Facebook page titled “Sign the Petition TO SAVE PHILADELPHIA’S LIVE MUSIC SCENE!” was also started, and as of now has about 10,000 confirmed “guests.” It took almost a month after the initial bill was written, but local media and those within the art scene have made their voices heard regarding this issue. NightlifeGay has a great recent post on how the original bill would have effected LGBTQ events, as well (nightlifegay.blogspot.com).
Originally scheduled for vote June first, Councilman Greenlee now says he’s going to continue meeting with event promoters throughout the month, but wants to complete the bill before the council’s vacation on June 18. He’s also decided to get rid of the 30- and 10-day notices for, respectively, scheduling and having cops cancel, an event.
The outrage worked and some of the worst parts of the bill are dead, but the fight isn’t over. Something is still going to be voted on and if this whole ordeal proves nothing else, it’s that the city of Philadelphia has the power to give the music scene a severe strike to the kneecaps.