Vice comes down on Echo Country Outpost; now all shows FREE

The Echo Country Outpost - one of the coolest venues in the neighborhood - is becoming even more intimate. No fees for tickets or beers. They are now only hosting private affairs - and of course YOU are invited.

"Part of the difficulty of running a legally underground but aboveboard operation like the Outpost is that there are bound to be struggles with government bodies like the police," read an email sent to supporters yesterday from owners Erica Forneret, and Chris Hajek. 

The Echo Park County Outpost tried to work with city officials, permits cost money (sound familiar - the city's cost of doing business cost us another of Echo Park's best venues last year - the Echo Curio).

"The vice detectives at the LAPD have informed us that they will shut us down if we charge for events or charge for alcohol, therefore: Until further notice, all shows at the Outpost are FREE."

They'll still have drinks, music, art and workshops (like the upcoming Rethinking Glendale Boulevard Jan. 14), they just won't charge for them at this time even though they'll still have to pay for everything. So they are asking for donations. They are asking their neighbors to come and enjoy, and give a donation for what the evening is worth.

And remember you may be saving one of the coolest places in Echo Park.

"We know times are tough, providing even greater reason for us all to hold on tight to one another and dream that we can make something great outside of a system that is not working for any of us."

Sadly it doesn't sound like a long-term solution. But there are some non-profits out there and some cool business people. It sounds like a partnership is in order.

In an interview today, Chris explained in little more detail what happened.

"There is no nuance in the law that allows for a distinction between a place that hosts live music a few times a month like we do and a venue that is open and hosting performances 7 nights a week," he said.

While the Outpost would need a sound permit, they likely would also need application fees, change of use permits, parking assessments and an environmental impact assessment - "just to legally allow thirty people to come listen to music three times a month."

"We fund the Outpost ourselves through day jobs and don't have the resources or, frankly, the desire to throw that much money away. We maintain that we are and have provided an important and necessary resource for artists and musicians and music lovers in the neighborhood who, like us, may not have the resources to break into more established venues or attend expensive shows."

How would you say your venue is different or aspires to be something different?

Anyone who has been to a show at the Outpost can tell you that there is a sense of family, warmth and a lack of pretension unique to this city and unique in this time. When we started the Outpost, a little over two years ago, we were so hungry for community and for a greater network of friends that took care of one another and that's what we found and why we are so hell-bent on keeping this thing going in the face of terrible odds.

Furthermore, we're not just a venue--we've hosted regular fundraisers, breakfast for the Glendale Cleanup, are thrilled to be hosting an urban planning workshop on reimagining Glendale Blvd. this Saturday and the Echo Park Time Bank potluck next month and are looking forward to being even more of a resource for the neighborhood in the future.

How was the financial side of business before this?

It has always been the same. We are a shop that is open sometimes, selling antiques, handmade goods, moccasins, art, literature, etc. We make a very small amount of money on that. We host parties, openings, workshops, etc., as a means of building community, having fun, and bringing musicians and artists together. We make very small amounts of money on that part too. We attempt to make enough to sustain but, for the past 2+ years everything has been pretty much entirely funded by us and our day jobs. There is no business model in place that would lead to us making large amounts of money and it's never been about that. We've always wanted to make enough money to make this enterprise self-sustaining.

Are you still working through the permit process or going another direction?

Since our current path is pretty unsustainable, we are doing anything and everything we can to figure out a next step that will allow us to keep our doors open. We are pursuing non-profit status. We are approaching our online fans and community with the hopes that they will purchase memberships or donate to the Outpost. We cannot charge for attendance at our shows or for any beer that we serve, but we can seek general donations and people can always donate online as well. Many other little plans in the works too.

Is it OK to say you'll still have beer?

Yes, it is okay. They (vice squad) were very specific in telling us that if we do not charge at the door and we do not charge for beer, then it's fine. So that's what we're doing. Our parties are simply private affairs that we hold in support of our community and we do not charge for attendance or drinking.

It sounds like an Echo Curio problem - which means is this a city problem more than a business problem?

Yes, it is a city problem more than a business problem in the sense that if we were legal and able to sell tickets, we would indeed be a thriving business and in a wider sense it is a problem that LA is notoriously unfriendly to small businesses and DIY spaces.

We've gotten to the point where we are hosting and being sought by some large national touring acts and it would be wonderful if we could one day grow into our potential.

However, it is not quite the same as Echo Curio's problem for a couple reasons. First, we have never been cited for anything. In our new location, we do not allow any hanging out on the street or in the public way because we have our own back patio. Also, we do not have any sound issues because we are on Glendale drowning in traffic noise and not bothering any neighbors. Vice squad's issue with us is simply that it is illegal for us to charge admission because we are not a licensed "entertainment venue" and we are not allowed to sell booze because we don't have a permit. We'll never be able to sell beer. But we hope to one day be able to sell tickets again.

<><><> UPCOMING EVENTS <><><>

Tall Tales and Friends Rad Surf Friday the 13th, 9pm

Click flyer for event info.

Rethinking Glendale Blvd. Saturday the 14th, 10am-Noon

Click flyer for event info.

This is going to be a really cool event for anyone interested in the future of the neighborhood, urban planning and playing with others. James Rojas was just featured in the LA Times and uses blocks and salvaged items to help residents re-imagine parts of their neighborhood. We'll be focusing on Glendale Blvd. (the Outpost's front yard and a stretch of pavement virtually lost to pedestrians these days) in an interactive planning adventure open to all ages.

It's Psychedelic Night Saturday the 14th, 8pm

Click flyer for event info.

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