Chanting “Indie music must not be wiped out!” about a dozen staff at Taipei rock club Underworld (地下社會) and advocates of live music yesterday protested against the Taipei City Government’s flip-flop policy on the existence of live music venues in the Shida area, urging the city government to carry out its promise and promote live music performances in Taipei.
The group, holding protest banners and chanting slogans in front of the Taipei City Council, slammed the city government for launching a renovation program to improve public safety facilities at live music performance venues, while continuing to conduct inspections and fining the club for failing to meet public safety criteria.
Underworld shareholder Ho Tung-hung (何東洪) said the club, which had temporarily shut down in July amid the city’s frequent inspections on pubs and restaurants in the area, agreed to join the renovation program initiated by Taipei City’ Department of Cultural Affairs in August and planned to fix fire exits to meet the regulations.
Despite this, the Department of Urban Development and other departments continued inspections at the club and issued a NT$120,000 fine last month for violation of Construction Law (建築法).
“The fine given by the Department of Urban Development is a slap in the face to the Department of Cultural Affairs. We do not feel the support from the city government as it had promised,” Ho said.
Ho accused the Shidahood Self Help Association (師大三里里民自救會) of pressuring the city government to step up efforts to clamp down on restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, and hindering the renovation program.
“For the last 16 years, Underworld has passed public safety inspections every year and has installed two fire exits under the city government’s instructions. If the city government wants to strengthen public safety measures, it should also conduct inspections on other households in the same building,” Ho said.
The group later presented a petition to Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) as he arrived at the council to issue a report on the operation of Maokong Gondola and other city development projects. Hau promised to address the issue, but made no further comments.
Liu Wei-kung (劉維公), commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, acknowledged that regulations on live venues and pubs are “far from mature,” but promised to promote the live music industry.
“The renovation program will not stop, and we will give full support and assistance if Underworld plans to continue to exist,” he said.
The Department of Cultural Affairs has created a new business license category for “music performance spaces” to give live venues a legal status. However, the new license does not necessarily allow for the sale of alcohol, which may require additional licenses.