Last June, beloved Bushwick legal-DIY venue was shut down permanently, with little explanation other than a vague mention of building code violations. It came as a shock to fans, who loved the venue’s sweatbox basement dance parties and sold out shows from international stars like Skepta. The venue’s owners and bookers kept mum about the details , and more rumors floating than fact.
But in the latest issue of the local-music zine AdHoc, the venue’s founder Leeor Waisbrod and main booking agent Ariel Bitran speak to AdHoc founder Emilie Friedlander about the short life of one of Brooklyn’s more exciting venues, expounding upon the reasons for its demise in the process.
In short? Palisades was never actually legal, despite popular conception to the contrary. Sure, they had a liquor license and a certificate of occupancy, but they were still in early stages of acquiring a public assembly license, and their paperwork with the city listed them as a bar/tavern, not a music venue. The space didn’t have enough exits, and the ones it did have were not up to code. In the interview with Friedlander, Bitran said they had been meeting with lawyers and architects to build two more exits along a side wall of the venue, but “the Department of Buildings was just not cooperating.” In hindsight, it’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did.
Waisbrod explained their familiarity with the city’s MARCH program, or Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots. “The MARCH program is when all the different departments—the Fire Department, your local police department, the Health Department, and the State Liquor Authority—raid your place on the same night, shutting your event down and all fining you for every possible violation they can find,” Waisbrod explained. “We got marched three times.” Bitran put it quite bluntly: “Legally speaking, I think the best way to describe why it was shut down was like a combined violation between departments, misrepresentation of the use of the space and the space just being a death trap.”
Palisades may have been winging it, but the city’s bureaucracy has proven that if it wants you shut down, there’s no amount of hoops you can jump through to satisfy them. Just ask the folks at Market Hotel, who were served a “gotcha” citation for “warehousing alcohol” after months of above-board, legal operation. In the end, the bureaucracy succeeded in destroying the venue founder’s hope that any amount of compliance would have sufficed. “There was meeting after meeting, inspection after inspection, and every time you hit a milestone, you would be asked to do something else,” Waisbrod told AdHoc. “I can’t speak for the city, but there was definitely a feeling of, ‘We don’t want this to happen for you.’”