From KERA Art&Seek:
Some galleries, like The Basement Gallery in Oak Cliff, have closed because they can’t meet city requirements. Others, like Kirk Hopper Fine Art in Deep Ellum, are facing the possibility of closure. The arts community is frustrated by a complicated mix of requirements and permits from a variety of city departments. And underneath it all, questions are being raised about how the city zones for art galleries.
Giovanni Valderas, assistant director of Kirk Hopper, says it’s time to fix this problem.
“Now’s a really great opportunity for not only Office of Cultural Affairs, [but also] the City of Dallas to really concentrate on fixing the zoning because that’s the issue,” says Valderas.
Art&Seek wanted to know when and why these artist gatherings were attracting the attention of Dallas Fire-Rescue.
Jason Evans, the public information officer for the fire department, informed us that Fire-Rescue had received their first complaint about an “illegal assembly” back in May of 2015 via Twitter.
“This gathering was an art showroom that was hosting an event with over 150 people in attendance,” says Evans, “This referenced event consisted of a large tent, catering, and music on top of the roof without any of the necessary permits from Building Inspection or Fire Inspection.”
Evans says that neither the tent nor the gallery was inspected for safety concerns, like whether or not exiting during an emergency could be handled safely. That put the Design District and similar areas on the department’s radar for inspection.
Later in 2015, Evans says Dallas Fire-Rescue received requests for fire watches at after-hours events that were planned in showrooms and studios off Oak Lawn Avenue. He says the owners and managers of the showrooms and venues were renting out space in their businesses for events that included food and music, which lead to an increased number of people in the spaces and those showrooms didn’t have the proper certificates.
“Businesses with certificates of occupancy for Business (Studios/ Showrooms) were having the types of events that would, by definition, require a certificate of occupancy as an Assembly,” says Evans.
He explained that a certificate of occupancy for Assembly requires more safety precautions than certificates of occupancy for Businesses. To obtain a certificate of occupancy for Assembly you must have a sprinkler system and multiple exits with properly lit signage.