Would You Like Beer with That? 

State liquor inspectors curtail value meals at Oakland's French Fry Factory.

Underground warehouse gallery owners might want to lay off selling the sauce during art parties in the wake of the latest Alcoholic Beverage Control operations in Oakland.

Undercover ABC officials cited gallery owner Mac Hillenbrand March 27 in the wee hours for selling liquor without permits during a two-hundred-person music and art party at the French Fry Factory, his 278 Fourth Street warehouse space-turned-soundstage and arts venue.

Sergeant Leonard White of the Oakland Police Department's Alcoholic Beverage Action Team said the OPD and ABC had been looking to issue citations at the Factory for at least two weeks prior. Then a tip came in late March, and the ABC sent an undercover cop to check it out. White wouldn't disclose the tipster, but Hillenbrand said the Factory has made two recent enemies: a disgruntled former tenant who lost his security deposit, and a disgruntled former exhibiting artist who had his piece stolen, only to rant about it on Craigslist for days. "As for repercussions, they won't be immediate but yes, you will be involved somehow, someday," the artist wrote to Hillenbrand. The artist couldn't be reached for comment as of press time.

Events have been frozen indefinitely as Hillenbrand addresses the fallout from his misdemeanor citation, which could include fines and possible eviction if the Factory is visited by the building inspectors from the Oakland Fire Department. Too many code violations could doom the place, and he is setting up a PayPal account and organizing benefit concerts to stabilize the Factory during the minicrisis. "I'm so nervous because I'm in such an 'I don't know' situation," he said. "I just want to do everything right, get correct with the city, and continue to work with filmmakers. [Having parties] wasn't the correct way to go with the venue."

White said liquor for sale in Oakland warehouses is nothing new, but whenever owners start making money on alcohol they flout the taxes, licensing, and restrictions enforced on licensed liquor sellers. "If they came to the city and said, 'We want to throw a special event,' you can do that a couple of times a year, as long as the building's up to code," he said. "This is a little more organized. Somebody's coming up with the money for the party favors and making a profit out of it to keep the thing afloat. ... It's no different than when I was a kid, guys would say, 'Hey, I'm having a rent party,' and the guy's having rent parties every week." He added that ABC and OPD undercover liquor stings will continue through the summer.

Oakland "Bayennale" Plans: More Hype Than Headway

A massive international cargo ship of one hundred artists exhibiting in thirty venues over sixteen days will try to pull out of Oakland's dry docks this month. Oakland's first Bayennale Bay Area International Art Exhibition (July 22 through August 7) finished its Web site this week and holds its first organizational meeting Wednesday, April 13 for more than 350 volunteers at Mama Buzz Cafe. The goal: to help coordinate arguably the largest and most complicated art undertaking the bay has ever seen. "It'll be absolutely, completely wrecked," London artist and Bayennale consultant Bill Allen enthuses. "Word is spreading like a pandemic. It's the same on an international scale."

The Port of Oakland has ponied up $20,000 in seed money for the event, which will attempt to rival the biennials of Berlin and New York, but without the snootiness. However, Bayennale point man and Port of Oakland Public Arts Committee staff member Geoff Dorn says much more venue space will be needed, as well as in-kind sponsorships for music performances. He concedes that obtaining the space and rallying the divergent factions of Bay Area artists into a collective foghorn blast heard around the world will prove quite tricky for a group that wears disorganization as a hairdo.

"It's bringing the chaos all together for one moment, making the invisible scene visible," Allen says. "And even the mutants living in buses in Berkeley have responded to that."

The Mama Buzz meeting will attempt to nail down more free venues and work toward creating different teams for publicity, event organization, lodging for international artists, and a whole host of other tasks normally accomplished by dedicated full-time event planners. Dorn, and three other leaders are trying to pull it off as volunteers.

The Web site Bayennale.com offers info and signup information for artists and venues.


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