The Camel fights for late night shows

Chris Suarez
Staff Writer

Owners and patrons of Richmond’s “social oasis” for music, food and drinks, The Camel, will continue to wait on their zoning application, which would allow them to play live music until the early hours of the morning.

Originally filed in January by The Camel owner, Rand Burgess, the petition to Richmond’s City Planning Commission seeks the ability for his business to host live entertainment until 2 a.m. every night. A commission meeting had been scheduled for June 16, but has been postponed until July 7.

According to Burgess’ letter to the city, The Camel’s location in an Urban Business Zone, with a special use permit, in a local zoning area—with radio station WRIR located above—places different restrictions on the venue than it would a typical nightclub in Richmond.

“We have hosted local, regional, and national acts such as Awolnation, Young The Giant, Ben Kweller, No BS! Brass, The Green Boys, Jackass Flats, Frank Turner, Tim Barry and Justin Townes Earle, and are proud of the support and notoriety we have been able to provide to the local music and arts community,” Burgess wrote in his petition. “The limitations enumerated under the current special-use permit have become prohibitive of our ability to best serve the needs of the community that supports us.”

Opened in 2007, The Camel has become a staple in the Richmond music community, currently featuring live music every night, representing nearly all of the genres in Richmond’s eclectic music scene, including bluegrass, jazz, punk, rock, folk and electronica.

“The Camel is a cultural landmark for us and everyone here in Richmond,” said No BS! Brass Band trombone player Bryan Hooten. “We must cultivate spaces where people can go to experience music together. Let the bands play!”

As of June 9, Burgess’ online petition on change.org has gathered over 3,000 signatures.

Despite overwhelming support for The Camel and their petition, the delay has been caused by a small handful of neighbors and a former neighboring business owner who have opposed the zoning application, according to Burgess.

“We’re good with the radio station [WRIR] and the neighborhood associations [Fan District Association and West Grace Street Association]” Burgess said. “It’s literally two or three people against it, one of which is the owner of the closed tanning salon, [Fan Tan], next door. I’ve been in the back with a decibel meter and you can’t hear it past the property line.”

The former owner of Fan Tan, who currently has the location for sale, was unavailable for comment.

Other neighboring business owners have expressed support for The Camel and said previous interactions with the old Fan Tan owner were typically unpleasant. Wishing to remain anonymous, two staff members from Déja Vù Hair Studio at 1615 W Broad Street mentioned several incidents with the Fan Tan owner, citing harassment against them and their clients outside the store.

“We’re only open during the day. There’s no reason for us to be against The Camel’s petition to have music go late,” said a staff member from Déja Vù. “We could use the extra business on Broad Street to help develop and grow anyway.”

The Camel is located at 1619 and 1621 W. Broad Street.

The next scheduled commission meeting on July 7 will be at Richmond City Hall, 900 E. Broad St., Room 511.

 

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