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Fate of Radio Bushwick Up in Air as All CMJ Gigs Canceled

By Serena Dai | October 23, 2014 12:31pm
 A Radio Bushwick show in January.
A Radio Bushwick show in January.
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Facebook/Radio Bushwick

BUSHWICK — Bar and music venue Radio Bushwick was forced to cancel all of its upcoming CMJ shows after a judge slapped them with a temporary restraining order barring live shows — part of a legal dispute with the landlord that could put an end to all future concerts there.

The venue, at 22 Wyckoff Ave., had to cancel shows by about 40 bands since Oct. 10, with 20 additional gigs for CMJ either being canceled or moving to other venues. The move came after Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Lawrence Knipel ordered the venue to halt all of its shows immediately on Oct. 10 out of concern for the safety of their patrons, according to owners and court documents.

Knipel slapped the restraining order on the venue following a lawsuit filed by landlord Jamie Wiseman, of Cayuga Capital Management, who argued that the venue did not have proper fire alarms or sprinkler systems in place.

"Defendant's own website shows what appears to be hundreds of young people crowded around a performance stage," Judge Knipel wrote, "One shudders to contemplate the consequences of inadequate fire safety protection."

According to the Department of Buildings website, the venue does not have a Certificate of Occupancy, which is required to operate.

The building was never issued one because an alteration permit initiated in 2008 to convert the building from manufacturing to an eating and dining establishment was never completed, a DOB spokesman said.

The FDNY, which is responsible for monitoring sprinkler systems, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bar portion of Radio Bushwick has been allowed to remain open.

Radio Bushwick owner Tari Sunkin, who opened the space in November 2013, blamed the paperwork snafu on her landlord, saying she's been trying to get proper city certification since she signed the lease in 2010, according to court papers.

She and her attorneys blamed Wiseman for failing to do necessary work as a landlord to finalize the Certificate of Occupany, pointing to a letter from architects that say they can't get the certificate until the building's alteration permit is completed.

She argued that she stopped paying rent in December in hopes of pressuring them to finish.

Radio Bushwick owed more than $56,000 in back rent, insurance fees and real estate taxes when Wiseman sued them this spring, court papers show.

"I needed them to finish this. Complete it, and it will be completely fine," Sunkin said. "They basically refused to, from the beginning. I was running out of money while I tried to keep things going."

But Wiseman denied not keeping up his end of the deal, saying that under the terms of the lease, all remaining work on the property is Sunkin's responsibility.

"She took the keys. She signed up," he said. "Now she's unable to close her [Department of Buildings] application, and she's trying to blame us for it."

Sunkin, who's worked at both The Knitting Factory and Pianos, said it's difficult to tell how much revenue was lost from canceled shows, estimating it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 a week. 

She said she was excited for her venue's first CMJ Music Marathon and was disappointed to tell bands they could no longer play at Radio Bushwick.

"We were able to move them to another place, thank God. But it’s crazy and stressful," Sunkin said, adding that many of her CMJ shows moved around the corner to Lot 45. Brooklyn Vegan, which first noted the cancellations, has a rundown of where several shows have moved.