The Belfry, the popular new music venue in Sisters, is in trouble.
Only seven days remain on its Kickstarter campaign and the little music hall that could has raised just over 45% of its goal amount. As of today, fans of The Belfry had pledged $16,476 toward the $34,500 goal. Owner Angeline Rhett had hoped to use the funds for "fun stuff" like lighting and sound equipment, but she recently learned she'd need the money to bring her building up to code.
City building department officials told her she'd need to install a sprinkler system, two exit doors and other such last-minute additions in order to be in compliance. Rhett figures it'll cost her $50,000 to meet the necessary requirements—that's all of her Kickstarter funds plus some.
"This is what a I had tried to avoid by getting EVERYBODY from city in here before I did this," Rhett says.
The Belfry owner, who also owns Angeline's Bakery, a gluten-free-friendly cafe in Sisters, is frustrated because she says she was misled by building inspectors who assured her many of the potential issues with the converted church were, "grandfathered in." Now, after she's been open for nearly six months, Rhett is hearing something totally different from the city. And she's scrambling to meet its demands.
The problem is, those inspectors who signed off on her project were working under contract for the city, and were NOT city officials. The Building Department LLC, the Eugene company on contract, has since been released, as has the former Sisters city manager, Eileen Stein.
Rhett, and The Belfry, were caught in the middle of this mess.
"The new folks there [at the Sisters city building department] say, this is crazy, this should never have happened to you," Rhett says. She added that Sisters Mayor Brad Boyle, a former business owner, has also been helpful in trying to right the situation.
Capacity is one of the problems Rhett's trying to work through. The former church often hosted upward of 200 people. Rhett's capacity is set at 49 until her building is up to code, a project that she expects will cost nearly $50,000 to complete. Rhett is now operating under a six-month temporary use permit, but, on Sept. 7 when her temp. use permit expires, the Sisters business owner will be forced to comply with the 49-person limit until The Belfry is up to snuff. Calls to Sisters' building department have not yet been returned.
Rhett, however, is committed to seeing her project through.
"I've been in business a long time. I can get super-scrappy," says Rhett.
The Belfry has become a major player in the Central Oregon arts and culture scene and has hosted regular concerts, plays and other community events ever since opening in November 2012.
To learn more, or to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, visit the "I Rang the Bell," Kickstarter page.