The band was raging. The music rattled in the chests of more than 200 listeners. The crowd in Temecula’s only live music showcase swayed and jerked to the rapid pulse of the bass drums. Meanwhile, inside an office in the back of the crowd, Rick Mannoia, the venue’s owner, sat at his desk. He stared past the scattered piles of papers on his desk, oblivious to the cacophony beyond his office wall.
August 3 was The Vault’s final concert, and the reason floated atop the disarray on Mannoia’s desk. A letter from the City of Temecula has ordered him to stop the shows.
The city has displayed multiple personality syndrome in their dealings with the Vault. In May, the city told Mannoia that if he wanted to hold live concerts in his then-new venue, he had to install 12 bathroom stalls as well as an additional emergency exit–a seemingly large mandate for a venue smaller than a spacious living room.
So, Mannoia’s music promoter, Ivan McClain, organized a demonstration at a Town Hall meeting. This expression from the supporters seemingly helped, as afterwards the city changed its tone. "Mark Herald [Head of the Safety and Building Department in the City] was supporting us 100 percent," he says. "He took a careful look at the plans I submitted and decided I didn’t need another fire exit and those 12 bathroom stalls."
Mannoia needed time to meet the new requirements–all of two new bathroom stalls. So, he needed to acquire a Temporary Use Permit to throw the shows until he made the changes to get his permanent permit.
The requirements for the Temporary Use Permit were less demanding–that is, at least initially. In a letter dated May 25, the city told Mannoia he needed to do only two things in order to keep running. First, he needed to okay the concerts with the owners of the business park in which The Vault is located. Second, he was required to get permission to use a parking lot of an adjacent business.
"I got really excited, and started searching for the parking," says Mannoia. His buzz was short-lived, as most of the local businesses gave him the cold shoulder. His search would take longer than he thought.
In the meantime, the city of Temecula sent him another letter, this one dated June 12. The city expanded its list of what it wanted from Mannoia, and not all of it was reasonable–least of all the paralyzing demand that the application of the permanent permit be completed before issue of the temporary permit.
"That’s what I needed the Temporary Use Permit for, to get my application for the [permanent permit] ready," he says. He holds up his hand up, with his thumb and forefinger two inches apart. "The application’s this thick!"
Nevertheless, he scrambled to satisfy the additional requirements with which the city had burdened him. Then, unexpectedly, he received a letter that politely said he had to close up. The letter did, however, allow for recourse. "We understand that it can take some time to revise plans and to obtain the requested information," the letter stated. "Call us if you will require additional time to address our [June 12] comment letter."
Mannoia did call, and he was flatly denied. He is sealing The Vault. Katie LeComte, the city’s assistant planner and the author of the letters, declined to comment.
When McClain announced officially that the room was being closed down after that night, the boos from the crowd drowned out the music. The audience–mostly teenagers–wore many of the same homemade "Save The Vault" shirts and bandanas they wore at the Town Hall meeting.
"The support for us is overwhelming," said McClain. "These kids made signs. I didn’t even ask anybody to do that."
The Vault’s shutdown comes as a huge disappointment to its supporters, especially the younger ones. "The City of Temecula needs to lighten up," said Leland Hatcher, a 19-year-old Sun City resident. He bemoaned the lack of a nightlife for teens in the Temecula Valley, and praised The Vault for keeping kids out of trouble. "We got either this [to do at night] or running around tearing shit up. If that’s what the [city] wants, I guess we could do that instead."