With this Friday’s “Masquerave” rescheduled from Oct. 26, the Washington Avenue Armory will return to the concert business after being issued a cease and desist order from the city of Albany following the now-infamous Oct. 18 Barstool Blackout foam party that resulted in a number of arrests and three injured police officers.
In a press release on Tuesday, Armory spokesman Michael Corts said the venue had signed a memorandum of understanding with the city that would allow the venue to follow through on this, the only event remaining on its fall calendar, until it goes before the Board of Zoning Appeals to determine whether the space will need an additional cabaret license to throw what the city defines as nightclub-style electronic shows in the future.
“We’re back on track,” Corts told Metroland, referring to a number of new policies meant to prevent another scenario like the one on Oct. 18. “What happened was this: The entry procedures that we had weren’t followed. They just weren’t. There was no structure outside. The show started too late, giving the kids more time to pregame. There were no issues inside [the show]. When there are we handle them quickly and get [rowdy concertgoers] out. There was a joint decision made by security and the police to shut the outside down. The show went on until 1 AM. The people were told to leave, and they had $40 tickets in hand. The situation was handled poorly on all of our ends, and what we did immediately was step up, accept responsibility, replace those responsible and say, hey, we know we screwed up but we know why it happened and can fix it.”
After meeting with city officials, neighborhood associations and nearby businesses, the Armory is introducing a new security process as well as a tiered ticketing arrangement that will allow only 2,100 attendees into the floor space of the 4,480-capacity room. “If the city says, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that,’” Corts said, “we’re going to comply. We want to be good neighbors. We hear them loud and clear. It’s unfortunate that we had to have a bad situation for the building to really say, ‘Man, we have to make some changes.’ But it can be a blessing as well because we’re going to have more structure.”
Corts said the venue plans to start booking the electronic dance music (EDM) and hip-hop shows, which have proved exceedingly popular in recent years, as soon as they can but that December and January will remain quiet as promoters are already planning for spring tours. The venue lost three shows during the cease and desist. In the meantime, the venue must go before the BZA within 30 days to sort out permitting issues.
“The real reason we were issued the cease and desist was because of what happened outside,” Corts said, “not because of any permitting issues.” Yet, the question of whether DJ’d parties, like the Masquerave, qualify as “concerts” rather than “nightclub events” remains the crux of the venue’s future programming.
Corts’ position on the matter is clear: “If there’s any question whether it’s a nightclub atmosphere or a concert, the two massive trucks that are parked out front with 30 people working, unloading, and rigging up sound and lights is concert-esque. People come to the armory to see a show. And they also happen to buy a beer and a hotdog secondarily. They don’t come here to drink; they come here for the music. That’s really what a concert is. When you look at ticket sales versus beer and food, they’re not even in the same ballpark.”
While the venue does have a holiday gift show and a martial arts event slated for the winter, Corts insists that the “concert” programming is what keeps the venue afloat. Whether or not the BZA will agree with the Armory’s definition of a concert, Corts hopes they can agree that “nobody wants a vacant building downtown.”