In the wake of Friday's deadly warehouse fire in Oakland, cities across the country are on high alert hoping to avoid any similar tragedies occurring in illegal or unsafe living spaces or venues like Ghost Ship. And almost immediately a press conference was called by one downtown Oakland restaurant owner, Dorothy King of Everett & Jones BBQ, who gathered the media Wednesday morning to call out what she considered an unsafe artists' space and event venue next door to her business. It's called Salt Lick, and King had claimed the place had lines around the block on Friday and Saturday nights, and further claimed there was only one way in and out of the building. The press conference resulted in a shouting match between King and artists looking to protect Salt Lick, as the East Bay Times reports, and a statement issued on behalf of the Salt Lick's collective of artists.
"None of us have interacted with King before,” the statement reads, as posted to Twitter by freelance writer Sam Lefebvre. “One of us called King on Tuesday afternoon and, in a voicemail, asked to privately meet and talk. King has yet to respond We remain willing to meet with King privately to hear concerns."
The statement further says it is "untrue" that there is only one way in and out of the space at 411 2nd Street. "There are multiple walkways out plus a fire escape out front," it says.
It further states, "King's suggestion that we are indifferent or ignorant to the sort of conditions that contributed to our friends' deaths is incredibly insensitive, especially when we are grieving."
Artist B.G. Anaraki screamed at King and her daughter Nina, saying, "I lost my roommate, my best friend, my girlfriend [in the Ghost Ship fire]. Every single artist is against this [news conference]... These illegal spaces are everything in my life. My friends live for the art we created." He said there was a danger now that people would advocate for “white-washed” versions the spaces they've created, rather than having the city help them bring them up to code.
It seems King backed down as a result of the confrontation, canceling the press conference at the last minute and saying that she would like to meet with proprietors of 411 2nd Street, and the King family claiming they would "advocate for the artists’ space if the city attempted to shut them down," according to the East Bay Times.
Lefebvre also wrote a piece for Pitchfork this week about the culture of warehouse spaces in Oakland, and the "broken system" for addressing their dangers as well as the city's lack of affordable housing. He quotes one artist, David Montoya, who performed at Ghost Ship in recent weeks and who was evicted from another arts space, the live-work venue Lobot Gallery, which was shut down after 13 years this past summer. "The other option for a lot of us who live in warehouses here is living in the streets." Montoya adds, "It was obvious to me and my friends that [Ghost Ship] was dangerous,”