Last Thursday night, Non Plus Ultra, a DIY art space in Virgil Village run by a group of L.A. artists, including members of the bands HOTT MT and Vinyl Williams, was buzzing as garage-rock stalwarts Thee Oh Sees were preparing to take the stage. There were about 350 people around the space, which generally hosts crowds of about 150 or less — and the event attracted the attention of the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.
Located in a warehouse rented by the group, who have registered Non Plus Ultra as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the space had always thrived on being an unpretentious and responsibly run venue. However, as with many DIY spaces in the city, it could never secure all the permits required to host live concerts.
Thee Oh Sees never took the stage, as an inspector from Building and Safety informed the venue that it was being shut down and cited for lack of permits. Eyewitnesses tell L.A. Weekly that the crowd was calm; the venue wasn't descending into chaos, it just wasn't ready to host a concert of that size, not in the current climate we live in.
According to one source, at 11 a.m. that morning, KCRW's Jason Bentley, on his popular radio show Morning Becomes Eclectic, announced that Thee Oh Sees would be playing Non Plus Ultra — which might explain the larger-than-expected turnout for the concert.
Non Plus Ultra began as an art space in September 2014, and has hosted intimate underground shows with bands like HOTT MT, Vinyl Williams, Egrets on Ergot and Band Aparte. Its first event was in October 2014, an afterparty for Orange County festival Beach Goth. Since then, the venue has thrived as a creative hub that operated as part recording studio, part DIY music venue.
But in December, after 36 people died in the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, the city of Los Angeles has been much more aggressive in policing DIY venues around the city. Several venues have been targeted in a nationwide reaction to what happened in Oakland, and the desire to avert a future tragedy. Although Non Plus Ultra never presented a legitimate safety concern, as there were multiple exits, a full sprinkler system and fire extinguishers, it simply wasn't legally bulletproof enough.
As of this writing, Non Plus Ultra can no longer host live concerts. However, the space will continue to operate as a fully functioning creative space, and its founders are looking for a new location to book and host live music, as they describe in the statement below, which they shared with L.A. Weekly shortly before posting it on their website. They are also accepting donations at NonPlusUltra.us to help finance their move to a new space.
On Thursday our Thee Oh Sees show was cut short after a city inspector notified us that continuing to operate will result in criminal charges. This extended to all future events.
Unfortunately, this means Non Plus Ultra will no longer be hosting live music shows.
Though this sudden ending is regrettable, we look forward to the future of NPU. The scope of our operation has outgrown our current building and, as such, we have already begun the search for new locations that can better accommodate the live music experience we strive to provide.
Non Plus Ultra is, and always has been, a nonprofit organization made up of working artists who built the space to facilitate creative endeavors. Providing a home for live music is an important part of our mission, but for now we will focus our energies toward the many other services we can offer.
We’re professional musicians, filmmakers, fine artists, engineers and fabricators. Our services, knowledge and tools are at your disposal. Non Plus Ultra is still available as a filming location and workspace. The stage and our separate multitrack recording room will remain set up for multitrack live session recording.
DIY venues exist to provide safe, community-minded places to share art and experiences with each other. Our success has only been possible through all of the artists who ventured through and helped us grow — every single one of you inspiring, sweating, crying, bleeding and constantly killing. And to all our donating, cheering, peacekeeping, speaker-saving, mosh barrier, parking-patient, hold-your-pee partiers who we’ve had as guests here: We are eternally grateful for all the support. Without you it’s just an empty warehouse.