Burnt Ramen, an underground venue in Richmond that’s hosted live music since 1998, was shut down Friday by city officials after the space failed an inspection.
The venue’s owner, Michael Malin a.k.a. Mykee Ramen, said that on Friday morning, about eight inspectors from the City of Richmond looked over the building that he converted into a live-work space almost 20 years ago. By the early afternoon, without telling him why, they red-tagged the space, declaring it uninhabitable.
“We’ve been working off an off-grid solar system for power, and I don’t know what the law is exactly about that but I guess they can use that as cause to red-tag the building, ” Malin said.
The city will be providing a list of violations by next week, according to Malin. Richmond Planning Director Richard Mitchell told the East Bay Times that the building “needs to be stripped down and rebuilt.”
Malin, 47, says he expected the city to pursue the venue after Richmond Mayor Tom Butt released a statement citing Burnt Ramen as the city’s own “Ghost Ship,” referring to the Oakland warehouse space where 36 concertgoers were killed in a fire on Dec. 2.
“Building and fire codes are there for a reason, to keep us all safe and alive,” Butt wrote. “We need to embrace them and hold those accountable who flout them, particularly for the purpose of making money.”
Malin says that the venue was recently inspected. He also says that the space is old — it was built in 1905, as a brewery — and he ran into issues when he tried to legally convert it into a live-work building upon purchasing it in 1998.
“I don’t think there’s a legal definition of what a live-work space is in Richmond,” Malin said. “I don’t think the zoning is up-to-date enough to recognize it exists as a live-work space, even though it’s been this way for about 100 years.”
After looking into its permitting, Malin says that there’s even disagreements between city departments over whether or not the building is residential or commercial.
“It’s been a struggle,” Malin said. “I’ve done everything I can. It’s an old building and eventually someone is going to want to put in something newer. So I’ve just been getting the most use out of it while repairing whatever problems come up.”
Despite Burnt Ramen’s impact on the music scene — there’s a 2006 documentary about its time as an above-ground music venue — it has been unable to officially host concerts since 2003. Yet Malin and others continued hosting shows, advertising them by word-of-mouth. It also hosted a recording studio.
After inspectors declared the building uninhabitable, Malin and five other residents were told they had to find new places to live. Malin says his roommates hopefully have friends to live with — and he, at least, has a van.
Watch a trailer for a documentary about Burnt Ramen here.
Burnt Ramen has set up a crowdfunding site to raise money for repairs. Interested parties can donate here.