Grey Area | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Grey Area

Pakit Liquidators closes, in other news...junkyard for sale

The lack of independent small-scale music venues has been a chronic problem for the burgeoning Bend music scene. Almost exactly a year after the infamous Horned Hand shut down amid noise ordinance and zoning controversy, Bend will loose another DIY concert outlet. Pakit Liquidators, the 17-year old junkyard that has been hosting shows since last fall, is officially on the market—but, it is unclear whether it will continue to host shows during the period of time between now and its sale.

Owner Matt Korish said that despite warnings from the fire department about over capacity events earlier this year, that the closing has nothing to do with the city, or Pakit's previous efforts to meet city code.

"We all get along really well. It wasn't noise issues or anything else," said Korish. "There just wasn't an answer to the question at hand."

That question is one that Korish was reluctant to expand upon. While venues like Volcanic Theatre Pub, Silvermoon Brewery and others offer a handful of shows, Pakit had become a beacon for a more raw, unpredictable and DIY type of cultural event, and a hub for music and art. The community involvement of Pakit was one of the space's greatest assets. Korish frequently donated the space to the nonprofit Rise Up International for fundraising concerts, and in April, hosted the annual garbage-to-art Trashformation event. While the character and charm of the artsy building is high, zoning and permitting have been chronic issues for the space's development.

"For me, it seemed like there are a lot of road blocks to see what I wanted to have happen here, and I'm ready to do something else," said Korish.

While Bend's DIY culture is well supported, sometimes hosting as many as 400 people at events according to Korish, the shows at Pakit weren't always within city code. The line between underground shows, nonprofit fundraisers and sanctioned public events was blurry.

In the fall of 2013, Korish and Rise Up Presents acquired permits and a 250-person capacity stamp for the indoor/outdoor music stages during the weekend of the Roots Music Festival. But many of the shows at the venue were operated without permits.

"They've had two temporary occupancy permits, one for the TEDx afterparty and one for Bend Roots Festival," explained City of Bend's building division manager Joe McClay. "Matt has done everything we asked, but buildings are designed for specific purposes. It is a tall order to make that building a permanent assembly or venue."

McClay compared the fundraising shows at Pakit to First Friday events downtown where occupancy loads can be temporarily amended to help promote business.

"When you start taking that and stretching it to donations at the door, and donations for alcohol, it is really pushing the envelope. I don't want to be the big bad city saying we're going to slam you, but my number one priority is public safety."

After several for-profit events were moved from Pakit because of occupancy issues in January, Korish told the Source that a remodel was underway that would add restrooms, remove a wall and move the entrance, increasing the functionality of the space for events. But turning the building into a permanent assembly would require a much more expansive overhaul as well as rezoning from the city.

"They would start with going to planning department and asking to put an assembly building in an industrial zone," said McClay. "It's a process. Building-wise, it wasn't destined to be an assembly building or a restaurant."

In early April, Pakit reopened for a Rise Up concert series that hosted Hill Stomp and The Autonomics. Korish also donated the space at no cost to TEDxBend at the end of the month, which threw a massive afterparty that attracted around 500 people.

"We chose Pakit for a few reasons," explained TEDx event committee member Andrew Steiner. "First, it was close to Bend High School [where the day-long event was held]. Second, Pakit is a very unique space with a lot of creative possibilities. Third, Matt Korish is a very generous person with his time and with the building. He did not charge TEDx a penny to use the space. Further, he made all of the changes required by the city and paid those costs out of his own pocket, just so that the party could happen."

Just two days later, Korish announced the venue closing on Facebook.

"I heard about it through the grapevine and I'm very disappointed," said Jesse Roberts, owner of Rise Up International. "I would be very interested in continuing to put on shows, cultural events, and classes at Pakit. The community is really rooting for the space."

Now that the building is for sale, the cultural connectivity built by Korish and the community could be at risk of being lost. On the other hand, it could just be the beginning for Pakit.

"With the character of the building, it would be a great pub for a brewery. It could be a music venue if someone wanted to go down that path which would mean significant change regarding the property," said Korish. "But there's great acoustics in the building, because of the way it's built and the soft surfaces. It could be a variation of The Workhouse. It depends on who buys it. They might knock it down and build something new."

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