Fire Code: Your Questions Answered

Make.Shift stopped hosting live shows at our all-ages, drug-free basement venue back in late April, after a routine inspection by the Bellingham Fire Department. Understandably, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about what this means for shows, for safety, and for Make.Shift’s future as a whole. We hope the following information will help answer those questions.

In Transition:

Make.Shift is in a transitional period after five years of operation (two in our current downtown location). Our building was recently purchased by new owners, and all of the tenants in our building including Make.Shift are being asked to sign new leases, which include rent adjustments. The timing of this coincided with a routine visit from the fire department, which found that the basement was not up to current basement fire code, and needed additional emergency exiting. We are working closely with our new landlord, the fire department and the city to get our facility in compliance.

Why Exiting is Necessary:

It’s important to note that Make.Shift’s basement currently has two functional exits, and our safety record is exemplary. We take the safety of our tenants and patrons very seriously, and we’re eager to get Make.Shift up to the highest standard of safety. The Bellingham Fire Department notes that additional emergency exiting is necessary for any use that could occur in the basement, not just Make.Shift operations, or live music. If we were to move out of this space, these upgrades would still need to be made in order for the space to be leased for any business, and any type of use. To build this new exit, our property manager Daylight Properties will re-cut the original basement exit opening, which was since filled with concrete. This change to the building will affect a ground-floor building tenant by eliminating some square footage from their space. Since this historic opening is the only viable option for an exit, and since the exit must be installed for any basement tenant and any use, Daylight is working with all tenants to impact their spaces as little as possible.

At What Cost?

As you can imagine, the cost to implement these adjustments is high and will result in an increase to our rent. There are also other likely building improvements that Make.Shift will be responsible for. We will know what these are once the city signs off on the necessary changes to the building. This increase in expenditures was unexpected at this time, so we’re currently conducting a fundraiser to help us get over this hump as we work to find new and innovative ways to sustainably offset this cost increase. We’re proud of our financial track record and are confident we will be able to continue to operate. (If you are interested in our financial details, click here.)

Make.Shift has enjoyed becoming a part of downtown’s art district. We are proud to house more than 20 local bands and 10 local artists at any given time, many of whom have grown here and gone on to open their own studios and businesses. In the last two years we’ve hosted nearly 30 art exhibitions in our award-winning gallery, featuring the art of innovative local and regional artists. In the last year alone we’ve held more than 50 all-ages, drug- and alcohol-free concerts, and we’re proud to participate in local events like Art Walk, Bellingham Rock Camp, Girls Rock Camp, Yellingham, What’s Up! Magazine’s 15th Anniversary, The Make.Shift Block Party, the Holiday Make.Sale, and more.

Looking Toward the Future:

We look forward to offering even more music and art and continuing to be a safe and positive place for people of all ages. We appreciate the incredible support we’ve received from this community, and can’t wait to create new and exciting programming for 2014. If you have any questions please contact us at If you’d like to support Make.Shift as we go through this transitional period, please consider donating here.

We love our patrons, and all the cool things that happen at Make.Shift! We want to hear from you about your favorite moment, show or artwork. Please send your experience (long or short!) to:

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