Studio 14, a West Baltimore rehearsal space, shut down for safety and permit violations

After receiving a complaint, the Baltimore Fire Department shut down a rehearsal space in West Baltimore.

Studio 14 — a long-running West Baltimore rehearsal space for local musicians, including the Baltimore Rock Opera Society's band — was shut down on Thursday due to safety violations and operating without a use-and-occupancy permit, the Baltimore Fire Department said. 

The fire department inspected the building, located at 239 N. Franklintown Road in Penrose, after receiving a complaint, fire department spokesman Roman Clark said Friday. He said he could not elaborate on the complaint. 

Besides the lack of a permit, the main issue behind the shuttering was an outdated sprinkler system, according to Studio 14 owner Scott Gatley. He was also told to upgrade the smoke detectors and add emergency lights for the hearing-impaired in the event of a fire. (Clark, who did not participate in the inspection, said he did not know the specific “environmental citations” against the building.)

The shutdown of Studio 14, which Gatley said he has operated for 27 years, comes less than two months after housing and fire officials abruptly evicted dozens of artists from the Bell Foundry building in Station North due to safety violations and lack of proper permits. 

A sign taped to a Studio 14 door on Friday informed musicians the space had been shut down.

“Your gear can remain until you can remove it, but you will be unable to practice,” the sign reads. “We are applying for the proper permits to get back up and running. It will be at least a month.”

On Friday, Gatley said he was already working to address the issues, and was confident Studio 14 would be open in a month. He estimated it would cost $100,000 to bring the building up to code. More than 30 bands were renting practice space at Studio 14, Gatley said.

Clark said Studio 14 would be able to resume business once the building is brought up to code and the fire department inspects and approves the changes.  

While tenants were found to be living at the Bell Foundry — a warehouse converted into workspaces for artists, but was not zoned for residential use — Gatley said that was not the case at Studio 14. (The Baltimore housing department had no involvement in the shutdown, according to Tania Baker, the department's director of communications.)

“It’s in the lease you cannot” live at the studio, Gatley said. “I don’t need the headache.”

The Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS) has now been locked out of two rehearsal spaces — first the Bell Foundry, and now Studio 14, where the BROS band was scheduled to begin practices Sunday for its next play, said Aran Keating, artistic director of the group.

“It’s a little surprising, to be honest. We hadn’t heard a lot about other spaces getting shut down,” Keating said. “This is our second whammy. The hammer continues to fall.”

Rob Bradley, singer of the local funk-metal quartet Thrillkiller, said his band rented space at Studio 14 about once every two weeks since last fall. He said he was never concerned about fire-safety issues. Years ago, with another band, Bradley noticed mold in a room and said Gatley was quick to correct the issue.

“We didn’t have too many complaints, but whenever we did, the staff was pretty prompt,” said Bradley, who lives in Riva and is also a member of BROS.

Gatley said the fire department had been “gracious” during Studio 14’s shutdown, and that he discussed the closing of the Bell Foundry with fire department employees.

“They’re concerned with everything going on lately, and I completely understand it,” Gatley said. “We’re filing all of the paperwork and all of the things we need to do to open up as a better place.”

The debate over safe arts spaces has become a national conversation since an Oakland, Calif., fire killed 36 people in December. The blaze occurred during a party inside a converted warehouse where artists lived, worked and hosted events.

In response to the Bell Foundry closure, Mayor Catherine Pugh launched the Safe Arts Space Task Force, which met for the first time this month to discuss the many complicated issues surrounding spaces for artists to live and work.

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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