Starting with the Roots Festival in late September, it has not been uncommon to find Pakit Liquidators—the junkyard off 9th Street in Bend—packed with not only broken toilets, empty metal drums, cabinet doors and loose screws, but also a slew of skinny-jean-wearing, beard-clad-sardines. Which is to say: Pakit has become a hipster clown car, transformed from an overstocked junkyard to the newest, hippest, most alternative venue in town.
But last weekend two events—the Nappy Roots show on Friday night and the Curve party the following evening—were moved, last minute, to the Domino Room.
"The fire department was telling us we can't do what we're doing anymore," said Matt Korish, whose family has owned and operated Pakit for the past two decades. "Our shows were getting to be 3-to-400 people."
Deputy Chief of Fire Prevention Larry Medina confirmed that last weekend the fire department sent letters to Korish and to event organizers reminding them that the capacity of the mercantile designated space is 49people.
"We've been enforcing that consistently, but feedback and information we've gotten is that's not happening," said Medina. "When it became evident, we sent a letter that we didn't have compliance to the owners and the coordinators and let them know if they were over capacity they would get a ticket."
Despite a dozen or so successful shows at Pakit, most put on by local non-profit Rise Up International, the space is still designated for retail and therefore, is not approved for large crowds. Medina went on to explain that the only change in capacity for Pakit came after an application was submitted and approved for a temporary occupancy increase permit for the weekend of the Bend Roots Festival back in September.
"For that special event the owners at Pakit were able to provide a site plan that showed the indoor and outdoor stage, and everything they wanted to do, and were able to increase capacity for that special event," said Medina.
But the occupancy issue has been in a grey area for Korish and for event organizers.
"With Roots, they wanted us to do a change of use permit which we did and it was pricy," said Jesse Roberts of Rise Up International who, despite throwing concerts during the majority of the weeks in January, doesn't have another event scheduled at Pakit until spring. "It was something like $300 and they gave us a capacity for that space of 250 people. So we were operating with the fact that they had approved this for Roots Festival. We did all of the ADA and fire safety things and that was the capacity that they gave us for that space."
The strict enforcement of the occupancy has spurred a massive overhaul of the indoor music space, and Pakit as a business.
"We were pushing it," admitted Korish. "Right now there's a big clean up. The remodel is happening and we are submitting plans to the city. We're looking to bring all that through to fruition and have a concert series in April."
April will also mark Pakit's annual Trashformation junk-art event and another Repair Café, an event that brings together broken stuff and people qualified to fix it, on April 3.
By removing a middle wall in the venue and adding three new bathrooms to the space, as well as moving the entrance, Korish hopes to permanently increase the occupancy of the building with approval from the fire department and continue to hold larger-scale concerts and events on occasion.
"The fire department wants to be a part of Matt's success, but the idea is that we have the public safety glasses on and that's how we approach it," said Medina. "What he would like to do and what he's allowed to do can be conflicting points."