Fri, May 27, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Music: Live music space fought the law, and the law won

Witch House, one of Taipei’s longest-running and most beloved performance spots for indie artists, was set to close down this weekend. But a national law saved the day

By David Chen  /  Staff Reporter

Officials from various Taipei City Government departments sit down with Peng Yu-ching, second right, owner of Witch House pub and live house in Taipei, to discuss how places like Witch House can continue operating legally in the city.

Photo Courtesy of Taipei City Government Department of Cultural Affairs

Fans and musicians from Taipei’s independent music scene can breathe easier. One of Taipei’s longest-running and most beloved small venues, Witch House (女巫店), will not be shutting down after all.

Last weekend, Witch House, a fixture in the National Taiwan University area since 1996, announced that it was forced to “temporarily close” due to problems with its business license and Taipei City Government regulations.

But the venue is now being allowed to remain open, thanks to a last minute intervention by the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs. The agency held a meeting earlier this week with Witch House owner Peng Yu-ching (彭郁晶) and representatives from the city’s Department of Urban Development to discuss a solution.

Over the past two months, Witch House had been among the bars and clubs feeling the effects of a nationwide safety inspection crackdown, which followed in the wake of a Taichung pub fire in March that left nine patrons dead.

City officials originally told Peng that Witch House violated its business license as a restaurant and cafe because it was acting as a “pub” by serving alcohol in the evenings. This was considered a problem because, under city zoning regulations, pubs aren’t allowed in Witch House’s location, a residential district in an alley of Xinsheng South Road (新生南路).

Peng said that unless she moved or closed shop, she would have been subject to considerable fines. Overwhelmed by the constant inspections and having given birth to her second child last month, she decided to close and figure out her next step, which included the possibility of moving to a new location.

But the Department of Cultural Affairs stepped in on Wednesday, telling Peng that Witch House had the right to remain open.

Performance Notes

What AND WHEN: Radicalo tonight and Panai tomorrow, both at 9:30pm

Where: Witch House, 7, Ln 56, Xinsheng S Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市新生南路三段56巷7號), tel: (02) 2362-5494

Admission: Tickets are NT$300, available at the venue

On the Net:

Witch House’s saving grace is the Cultural and Creative Industries Development Act (文化創意產業發展法), a law passed last year by the central government that is designed to promote Taiwan’s cultural exports, which includes the music industry.

The Department of Cultural Affairs said that the law calls for the development of the “music performance space industry” (音樂展演空間業), which provides Witch House with a new legal status.

According to Peng, Witch House can remain open under this status, and the Department of Cultural Affairs will be working with other Taipei City Government agencies to revise current regulations to take the new law into account.

Peng says she was initially surprised that the Taipei City Government appeared to be “proactive” and had reacted so swiftly in dealing with the news of Witch House’s closing.

Indeed, it appeared that the government understood the venue’s significance for the indie scene. In an article released yesterday by the Central News Agency, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Hsieh Hsiao-yun (謝小韞) acknowledged that Witch House had “nurtured” indie artists-turned-stars like Cheer Chen (陳綺貞) and Deserts Chang (張懸).

But Peng also credits the “passionate” reaction of Witch House’s supporters.

“This [community] had a lot of voices that spoke out strongly,” she told the Taipei Times yesterday. “And the government couldn’t pretend that it didn’t see what was happening — they had to do something about it.”

Witch House hosts performances by indie band Radicalo tonight and Aboriginal folk singer Panai tomorrow night.

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