Tag Archives: The Cobalt

Quiet Riots

Photo by Stephen Connor.

Photo by Stephen Connor.

Police tell the Cobalt to turn down the volume

BY: SARAH BERMAN, MEGAPHONE MAGAZINE

When it comes to punk and metal shows, there are few Vancouver venues as loud and proud as the Cobalt. Attached to a notorious Single Room Occupancy hotel, the hardcore bar is praised by fans as the last haven for underground and extreme music in Vancouver.

But after nine years of punk rock patronage, the Cobalt may have to shut its doors for being a little too noisy. Last month, three separate noise complaints brought Vancouver police to the bar’s doorstep within less than a week.

“We’ve been getting these weird complaints—after nine years of nothing,” bar manager Wendythirteen explained. She said Vancouver’s after-hours noise bylaws might put the Cobalt out of business.

Diane Shepard is a property use inspector for the City of Vancouver. She said bars with extended hours are subject to specific and testable noise requirements. “If we have complaints, we’ll go out and take readings. If they’re not in compliance, we’ll go from there.”

“The hoops they put you through are impossible,” Wendythirteen lamented about the city’s late night licensing restrictions.

To stay open past midnight, bars like the Cobalt must be equipped with metal detectors, security cameras, ID scanners and adequate soundproofing. Owners of the nearby Astoria Hotel bar recently spent $120,000 on a soundproofing upgrade, to comply with city standards.

Sound upgrades at the Cobalt will cost upwards of $50,000. Wendythirteen says she simply can’t pay for renovations. “I can’t afford it, nor am I willing to do it,” she said. “The slumlords won’t fix their shit—why should I put money into fixing their building?”

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Punk rock saved the Minutemen—but will it save the Cobalt?

It seems one of Vancouver’s most prized punk, metal and extreme music venues is facing threats of closure, according to a growing Facebook group titled Keep the Cobalt Alive. More than 3,500 people have joined to ensure the beloved hardcore bar stays open.

Agent Orange plays February 22, 2009 at the Cobalt. Photo courtesy of Avenida Once.

Agent Orange plays February 22, 2009 at the Cobalt.

Reasons for the impending closure remain unclear. The Facebook group’s administrators have cited both noise complaints and Olympic politics as possible factors. While the Cobalt has thrived complaint-free for over nine years, Vancouver Police responded to two separate incidents of noise just last weekend.

On Wednesday, February 25th, the following update was posted by the venue’s vociferous concert promoter, Wendy Churcheen (known among Cobalt regulars as Wendythirteen):

“I WONDER WHO IN THE CONDO ACROSS THE STREET COULD POSSIBLY HEAR A SMALL VOCAL P.A. OVER TRAFFIC ON MAIN ST AND THE VIADUCT…I SMELL BULLSHIT….HERE WE GO…

WE HAD THE COPS THERE SUNDAY FOR THE AGENT ORANGE SHOW…OK…DOOR OPEN …BIG PA….MAYBE…..

BUT AFTER 9 YEARS WITH NO COMPLAINTS…5 OF THOSE WITH THE CONDO EXISTING…HMMMMM

AND NOW TONITE…SMALL VOCAL PA….COPS AGAIN….ANOTHER NOISE COMPLAINT….IS THIS HOW IT STARTS?

ARRRGGHHH…..THIS IS BULLSHIT…2 COMPLAINTS IN 3 NIGHTS…AFTER 9 YEARS OF NONE….

I’LL KEEP YOU POSTED AS THE SHIT UNFOLDS….”

The Cobalt is the home of both Monday Night Khaos and Fake Jazz Wednesdays—two weekly concert features that support local punk and experimental bands. Fans of the bar (located at Main and Prior, attached to the Cobalt Motor Hotel) have named it Vancouver’s “last true haven of the underground.”

A benefit concert is likely to be held to raise money for the venue. As of yet, no date has been selected.

Photo courtesy of Avenida Once.