Pasadena man told to stop holding concerts at his own home
A man in western Newfoundland who is inviting people to his own home for musical gatherings has been told the shows will not be allowed to continue.
The city of Pasadena sent Jan Stephen a letter in December saying the municipality considered him operating an unlicensed concert hall and ordered the events to cease. The December letter follows an August letter from the city’s attorney urging Stephen to cease and desist from operating what it called an “unlawful venue”.
Stephen said he doesn’t think he needs a permit to have live music in his own home, but the city says it has received several complaints from neighbors which is why it has taken action.
Stephen said he feels what he’s doing is nothing more than a group of friends getting together to play instruments and have fun.
“I don’t want to defy my city, even though I think their actions were unreasonable,” Stephen said. “If they have the legal right to control what I do in my home and I don’t think they do, I don’t know, I can’t tell. I love music and I will have it.”
Stephen has appealed to the West Newfoundland Regional Appeal Board.
Open up the band
Stephen began holding music events at his home in 2017, in a space he calls the “Vinyl Garage,” which is adorned with music memorabilia.
He said he used to refer to the events as concerts and promoted the sale of “tickets” for those who wanted to attend.
Following a warning from a councilman last summer, Stephen said he had used the phrase “performer’s fee” instead, and he insists that any money that comes in goes directly to the performing artist. In addition, Stephen often provides food and lodging for the musicians, making touring more affordable for them.
Eamon McGrath, an Ontario singer-songwriter who has performed a half-dozen house concerts at Vinyl Garage, said the people who have come to his shows in Pasadena clearly appreciate live music, and he’s pleased as Musician.
“As an artist, the type of shows Jan puts on at his home has allowed me to make a living and survive the last three years of lockdown. He was a person who pretty much single-handedly carried the torch in his community to ensure musicians had a livelihood,” McGrath said.
McGrath said he’s played at house concerts across Canada and parts of Europe, and he’s never seen a concert promoter break the law.
music and friends
Stephen dismisses the notion that he runs a concert hall as a business because he doesn’t make any money from the events he hosts, he said, and most of the people who attend live music events at his home are friends and acquaintances .
Corner Brook singer-songwriter David Peddle, who has performed at the Vinyl Garage with his band Rev. Dave and the Sin Eaters, said the intimacy of the small space in Stephen’s house draws an artist because it connects with an audience.
He’s hoping something can be worked out with the city of Pasadena so his band and others can keep playing.
“It seems a bit misguided. It seems a little bit behind the times, you know, maybe even a little depressing, because here is a place that allows people at every stage of their musical career to play for an attentive and educated audience, and it seems a shame take that away,” Peddle said.
Out of step
An organization that puts together tours for musicians said it was unusual for a community to have a problem with house concerts.
Leonard Podolak, executive director of Home Routes Canada, said nearly 70 percent of the venues his organization books for performances are human houses, just like Jan Stephen’s.
He said most small towns that don’t tour regularly would appreciate access to live musical performances, so he was surprised to hear about the situation in Pasadena.
“I would say that’s a really narrow-minded, bizarre overuse of power and also extra bureaucracy that isn’t needed. If anything, this host brings the community together and does something to energize the city of the map and creates another way for musicians to have a successful evening,” said Podolak.
Stephen said he will likely wait to hold more concerts at Vinyl Garage until his appeal is heard sometime in the coming months.
He said he will apply for a permit if necessary, but hopes the city’s order will be lifted.
The city of Pasadena declined to provide a taped interview with CBC News, but said in an emailed statement, “The city has received multiple complaints from neighborhoods regarding the unlicensed concert hall.”
City manager Brian Hudson told CBC News over the phone that neighbors have complained that events at the vinyl garage were loud and disruptive.
If Stephen applies for a permit, the city would need to get public feedback before making a decision, Hudson said.
“That’s not to say it couldn’t happen,” Hudson said.
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