The Vault Fought the Law

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Posted November 9, 2007 in News

The club was filled with young, dimly glowing faces, mulling around and chatting last Friday night. Lake Elsinore band Ready For Vegas set their gear up on stage, while attendants collected donations to ship to the troops in Iraq. The air smelled faintly of coffee, an unusual aroma for a venue catering mostly to loud guitar bands. But then, this was an unusual venue—this was the Vault, the newest, and only, rock venue in Temecula.

Judging by the energy in the air, nobody would have guessed that Temecula’s stifling city bureaucracy nearly ruined not only this show, but an entire schedule of previously booked ones.

On April 14, the day after the Vault held its first concert, the city received its first angry phone call, a [NOISE?] complaint from a neighbor in the same building complex (the complex had been zoned for office space).

After several weeks of back-and-forth between the city and Vault owner Rick Mannoia and club manager Ivan McClain, Temecula officials ordered the Vault closed on May 16, until numerous issues were resolved. The city found the Vault to be in violation of various safety and zoning codes. If anything went wrong, such as a fire, the place would be a death trap, says Director of Planning Debbie Ubnoske.

Mannoia felt betrayed. “He jumped through all their hoops, filled out all the red tape,” McClain tells the Weekly. “I went to the city several times with floor plans,” Mannoia says.

The city had apparently left out a lot when they told Mannoia what he needed to open—like about $50,000 worth of changes before it could open to the public, including a $5,000 conditional use permit, an extra emergency exit, and two huge bathrooms. “I can’t hold it against them, the city’s just doing its job,” says Mannoia. “But do we really need 12 to 14 bathrooms?” The Vault is only 2,160 square feet.

The biggest hurdle, though, was that the Temecula City Planning Department considered the Vault to be an “auditorium.” “We’re not an auditorium,” says Mannoia. “I’ve been to venues [of this size] all over Southern California, and none of them have 12 bathrooms,” McClain concurs.

McClain acted swiftly to save his new room, not to mention his summer band schedule. In only two days, with a few phone calls, he set up a May 17 demonstration. Dozens of Temeculans of all ages showed up to a city meeting to give their opinion on the city’s Youth Master Plan, which, when completed, will guide Temecula’s council in their decisions regarding the city’s youth, a group which for years have rightfully complained of having too few under-21 options—those winery tours, after all, don’t exactly compare to the ecstatic buzz of an electric guitar.

Since that meeting, the city suddenly became more helpful to the Vault, Mannoia says. The council granted him a temporary use permit last Thursday, May 24, which will allow him to operate for a few months while he finds a solution. “They’ve been giving me tips on how to save money and meet their requirements,” says Mannoia.

The demonstration had no direct effect on their policy, says Ubnoske. “It was an opportunity for [Vault supporters] to express their opinions, but we had already decided our course of action.”

The city also withdrew their demand for an additional fire exit and the mammoth bathrooms. Mannoia now needs only to apply for the conditional use permit and put in two new bathroom stalls. On Saturday, the day after the Ready For Vegas show, Mannoia told the Weekly these new demands were reasonable, and he’s now looking for a contractor to put the stalls in. Compared to dealing with the city’s zoning code, that’s a type of shit both Mannoia and McClain are much happier dealing with.

For info on upcoming Vault show dates, visit www.myspace.com/ivanpromotions.


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