More than 100 people packed Bend’s City Council chambers and spilled into the hallway Wednesday night during a rambunctious debate over whether to limit the number of events businesses can host with more people than would usually fit in their buildings.
Every person who spoke to the City Council opposed limiting the number of temporary permits businesses can receive to host more people than they’d otherwise be allowed. The permits cost between $200 and $1,700 and are required whenever major events with at least 50 people are held in buildings that aren’t designed for that.
Many of the more than 20 speakers referred to it as an assault on music and said Bend’s economy would suffer if the city limited the number of concerts or events.
But Mayor Casey Roats, who cast the deciding vote capping those temporary permits at three per year, said the issue isn’t about music and that he “really detested” the way it was framed as an attack on music.
Bend needs clarity on events and its building code, he said.
“By no means is this shutting the door on music,” Roats said. “By no means is this shutting the door on culture. We’re in an awkward place as a community where we’re approaching 100,000 people and we don’t have the facilities for them, but we will soon.”
The purpose of those temporary permits is to allow businesses to host an event or two a year to promote their businesses, Roats said. However, building division manager Joe McClay said more businesses have been requesting permits to hold events in buildings that aren’t meant for them, and it could result in safety issues.
Only one Bend site, Century Center, has used more than three such permits in the past year. Century Center, which is home to GoodLife Brewing and Volcanic Theatre Pub, received seven last year and 22 in total since 2015.
Derek Sitter, the owner of Volcanic Theatre Pub, said he’s worked hard to make his venue safe for the 200 or more people who show up for shows. He said businesses can make additional safety improvements, but the city shouldn’t limit events.
“I know personally that Century Center has been targeted very, very heavily,” he said.
Kris Arnold and her son both work shows at Century Center. She said they’d lose money that they rely on if Century Center can’t host the same number of events.
“I’m the face of somebody who will lose income if you limit the occupancy permits,” Arnold said. “It’s hard to make a living in Bend, and I use those shows as a second income. It impacts me, and you’re literally taking money out of my pocket.”
Roats and city employees repeatedly stressed the decision wasn’t specifically targeting Century Center, but council discussions on this stemmed from a long-running dispute between Century Center businesses and a handful of neighbors who don’t like the noise from concerts.
Councilor Nathan Boddie, who voted against the cap, said it didn’t address neighbors’ complaints or the desire of business owners to host events and promote their businesses. City staff didn’t propose changing Bend’s noise ordinance or a policy that lets events run louder or later than otherwise allowed with city permission.
“This is using a colonoscopy to treat a heart attack,” he said.
Roats, along with Councilors Bruce Abernethy, Bill Moseley and Justin Livingston, voted for capping the number of permits.
As the last speakers flooded out after the council vote, one man cupped his hands around his mouth and called out to the council.
“Parties aren’t going away,” he said. “They’re just going back to the unsafe warehouses, you guys.”
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