Last night, local gig organiser and writer Brian Gomez posted an account of the ongoings in Merdekarya, a space we’ve all came to know and love as the place to host your gigs.
Though, like most establishments in the entertainment industry during the pandemic, we haven’t seen much going on these days, and here’s why:
As most of you know by now, The Live Bar has been shut down by MBPJ. Dono till when.
Here’s what happened:
— Merdekarya (@merdekarya) February 17, 2022
Brian shares how MBPJ (Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya), has been one of their most regular visitors and how their entertainment license can now be renewed after two years since the pandemic started.
“…to which I responded, ‘Bang, saya nak peluk bang, tapi takut kena saman tak ikut SOP’ to which they laughed and then went their merry way.”
And then this happened:
So we applied to renew our license. On Dec 28, we got a notice saying that our license was “diluluskan”. Yay. Cool.
Then suddenly, on 13 January, we got a notice saying lesen “diluluskan tetapi ditangguh sehingga pihak majlis mendapat kelulusan daripada MKN”. Boo. Bummer.
— Merdekarya (@merdekarya) February 17, 2022
They then proceeded to do what every other venue was doing, which was to write a letter to MBPJ for approval to host indoor busking sessions.
“We sent a letter by hand to MBPJ. Now at MBPJ itself, they seemed to have no idea that they were tasked with issuing this letter, but they said that the pegawai incas cuti so leave the letter with them and they’ll get back to us.”
They eventually got back to them a week later saying that the proper procedure to restart live music is to apply for a Permit Sementara, which would be renewable every month, for all live music performances.
And they did just that, with more waiting to come.
“Then yesterday (16 February), we received an email from MBPJ saying that the Permit Sementara was rejected on the grounds that ‘aktiviti busking di dalam premis adalah aktiviti hiburan yang dilarang.'”
Brian claims this to be “nonsense” because according to MKN (Majlis Keselamatan Negara), there was no mention of this at all.
Merdekarya then got raided again two nights ago by MBPJ and were asked about documentation and permits – but here’s the kicker, not even the officers knew where or what to apply for in order to obtain this permit.
“And he [one of the MBPJ officer who raided Merdekarya] then says all performers need this permit but no one knows who issues it or where to get it.”
Brian explains, “It’s worth noting as well that these enforcement officers had no idea about the Permit Sementara that I mentioned above and had no clue that it was even a thing, even though it’s what their own licensing department told us to apply for. ”
And of course, the debacle went on until the officers stopped them from putting on anymore live shows without the permit, else they’ll be fined RM25,000. The only consolation was that the officers allowed the show that night to go on on the condition that it would be their last until the permit issue was settled.
This wild goose chase left Brian feeling pretty exasperated, and frankly, so am I writing this.
“These bones have aged ten years in the last two, and I can’t bear the thought of having to appeal, and write more letters, and fill up more forms, and speak to this pegawai and that pegawai and then go back to square one all over again in a few months, and risk getting shut down or fined because no one really knows what the hell is going on.”
What do local nightlife business owners have to do to stay afloat? 2022 is slowly becoming a live gig filled fever dream.
Despite this, he keeps his hopes up and tells the loyal member of Merdekarya that they can still enjoy the discounted drinks at Bar B and The Balcony Bar, and The Live Bar will still be open for larger group bookings.
“Have a beer (the ginger one), a tuak or langkau or two. Hossain’s just made a killer mango pickle that we’re trying out with our burgers (yes, on the burgers!) and it’s awesome.”
Even though things look down for the beloved gig venue, Brian remains optimistic. He ends by highlighting the obvious, “We’re fine. Merdekarya regulars will know that we’ve survived worse. So we’ll survive.”
For now, it looks like live music is on the hold until the elections as Brian says, “We’ve decided we’ll probably just wait until MKN completely lifts all current restrictions and ‘aktiviti di kelab malam dan pub’ is no longer on the negative list, which means that we’ll likely reopen sometime before elections.”