Why the Portland Arts Community Needs Backspace

Comments

1
Supply and demand.

You assert "Portland needs more all-ages venues." If that's true, then customers ought to be forking over their cash to venues like Backspace, and in turn, Backspace should have plenty of money to pay the rent (instead of being $10,000 delinquent).

I suspect there really isn't much demand for poetry slams, release parties for local publishers, and all-ages open mic nights. If people aren't willing to pay to attend these types of events, then venues like Backspace are destined to struggle.

On the flip side, demand for microbrews, pretentious service, and nudity is very robust in the Portland market. If Backspace decided to install a stripper pole, and ban minors, then maybe the influx of money from new clientele would be sufficient to pay the rent.
2
Are they still Backspace, LLC or something else? Because the state of Oregon administratively dissolved Backspace, LLC back in April, at least according to the information on the state's business search online.
3
The arts community does need places like Backspace, definitely.

Sadly, my household's arts budget now goes to the City of Portland so it can be given to the Ballet, the Opera, PAM and the Oregon Symphony.

I'd prefer it go to people like Backspace, but I was out-voted.
4
I agree that keeping Backspace going is a good thing for Portland. However, based on your previous post, the place appears to be doomed as long as the current owner is in place. Not paying your rent is the number one "no no" for any business. Letting that non-payment build to the point where you have over $3,000 in late fees is plain stupidity.
You also mentioned that the lease is up in another 12 months, and the feeling is that it is unlikely to get renewed based on the rental history. So what landlord will want to rent to Backspace when they go in search of new digs?
Raising the $10,000 might get it back in the black for now, but continuing to manage it the way it currently is being managed will just push it back into closure.
5
Everything Euphonius said. Sad times when even the good guys are hoodwinking voters to get theirs.
6
@anonymous - Have you ever walked past Backspace when the poetry slam is happening? Or any of the events I mentioned? The place gets PACKED. But the underage portion of "customers forking over their cash" are buying $2 cups of coffee. Clubs make money off booze; kids can't buy booze. That's why all-ages venues struggle, and why Portland has precious few of them. That doesn't mean they aren't valuable.
7
I stopped going to BS ages ago because their customer service was shitty.

Maybe they should have fixed that.
8
I won't cut and paste my full comment from the other thread, but I'll say: if you want to donate, donate. If you want to make armchair business diagnoses, you're just wasting your time. Backspace has made clear it is almost certainly moving after another year, and this is a request for temporary funding. It is beyond obvious that it will only be able to rent in another location where the lessors are confident Backspace will regularly be able to meet its new obligation, whatever it is.

Personally, I want to encourage this kind of people-driven patchwork financing whenever we get exactly this kind of transparency: "here's the problem, here's what we need, here's what you'll get from that." If you want to talk pointlessly about "markets," talk about the market for money raised in this way. It's clearer than ever that market is a viable one for a range of financing needs, and it circumvents the fucking banks, so what more do you want?
9
While I do feel that loosing Backspace would be a hard hit on the community, I also believe that they could do with a better approach to customer interaction. It's something I specialize in*, and have noticed some areas of oppertunity every time I have ever been there. Including a time when the owner himself growled at my friend and I for sitting at an empty table that they were going to have a meeting at (there was no sign on the table saying it was reserved). We had just spent about $20 on food, too. I didn't visit for several years after that. I have been in a few times since, and it is hit or miss, but I mostly just laugh to myself about how bad they are. Sadly, it's probably hurting their sales. I wish them the best of luck, though.

*Not corporate BS, I manage a local shop.
10
The Portland Poetry Slam at Backspace fills every seat every Sunday night, and often expands to standing room only. It also operates with a suggested donation, because it is essential that events like this which create and showcase vital new voices be available to everyone. This is just one of many important events that Backspace hosts.

There are times that important businesses get in trouble, especially businesses that focus on the service they are providing to the community, rather than the sole purpose of earning revenue for themselves.
11
Earlier this year Backspace hosted a fundraiser for the Portland Zine Symposium. Hundreds of people came, things were read, music was played. The cost to the organizers? Like 80 bucks to pay the sound guy for his time.

Does Backspace make questionable business decisions? Yes! But at least a subset of those business decisions are them being nice to local artists who couldn't afford to hold events of that caliber anywhere else in the city. If a place is failing because they are too nice and generous, I don't think it's unreasonable for them to put out a hat when things are tough for them.
12
I will cut and paste my previous comment on the matter..

Backspace is a wonderful, wonderful place. Like most people over 21, I more or less stopped caring about all ages venues/hangouts as soon as I turned 21 or got a fake ID. But when I was a kid back in the mid-90's living in Bend, I own/operated/managed/whathaveyou an all ages venue/hangout of my own. I haven't been to Bend in over a decade at this point, but it was a MUCH different place from what I have been told of what the town is like now. Simply by being an all ages venue/dance club/de facto queer hangout (by virtue of the fact that we hosted PFLAG meetings, events, had safer sex literature, etc) put a gigantic target on our heads with the local government who found every reason they could to put us through the ringer.

And on top of that, we were constantly in financial trouble because as much as kids love to complain about not having a place to be when there isn't.. they don't do a whole lot to support it when it does exist (and in my experience, would often actively bitch when it doesn't meet their specific expectations). The landlord eventually put us on a week to week agreement, our troubles with paying the bills were so bad. And yes, more then once we had to have emergency summits with our community of kids and friendly business owners to pass around the hat hoping that they would save our ass from closing down. It sucks when you have to do it, but there is nothing wrong with turning to your customer base when what you provide to them is in danger of disappearing.

Particularly when your business is one like Backspace, or my own way back when. When you provide a safe place for underage kids to be while bringing entertainment to town and all that which comes with having a venue/cafe and are in crisis, turning to that same community to plea for help to assure its continued existance is perfectly okay. I will be sorely disappointed if they are unable to raise the funds necessary to remain open, not with Backspace, but for the community it supports. I can't honestly say I have given a whole lot to their business in the past as a customer. But I went there and gave 5 dollars personally to the interest of them remaining open. Not a whole lot of money obviously, but all I can really muster at the moment..

For the TL;DR crowd.. basically, kids aren't exactly big spenders/the type of crowd that keeps businesses open. So when things like this exist, it is largely a labor of love from people who may not have a whole lot of business acument, but do have a lot of willingness to try (and fail). And these people deserve the support of the communities they serve.
13
Backspace was one of the most professional, fun places I've played in Portland. It would be sad to see them go.
14
"acument"
15
No, really. What's the story with their dissolution by the state back in April? Why is that still the current information the state lists? I'm neither attorney nor accountant, so I have no idea how these things work, but it's bizarre to me that no one cares about the question. The state lists Backspace LLC as an inactive corporation. Is that resolved, but just not reflected in the state records? Or is Backspace since April run by something other than the dissolved Backspace LLC?

Seems like a reasonable question.