by Rachel Swan
Ethnic Studies lecturer-turned-local arts booster Michael Parayno knew his wildly popular underground venue, the Birdland Jazzista Social club, was in trouble from the moment he saw a Prius tool up Sacramento Street on Friday with an unmistakable City of Berkeley sign. It turned out the Birdman was in trouble again, pretty much for the same offenses he'd committed last year — food service at a non-permitted event that's open to the public, sidewalk encroachment, amplified sound indoors and around the exterior of the building. Parayno was infuriated. "They just photocopied the same citation that was issued in January, 2011, and wrote 'second notice,' on it," he said. But this time, the fine was much steeper: $5,500 daily, a 1100% percent increase from the original $500 penalty.
Parayno is crying foul. "I really think this is a personal vendetta by code enforcement," he said in an interview this morning, recalling that police arrived at Birdland at 6 p.m. on Friday to shut down the venue. Parayno had notified local press outlets that his shows would go on as planned, albeit in acoustic form. But he was unable to contend with the new citation, and in the end, friends and performers told him to just give in. That night Birdland's garage venue remained empty, while people sat in the back and barbecued. Parayno dubbed it "the Beta version of Birdland."
But he's not giving up, yet. This morning, Parayno sent yet another e-mail out to local press and friends of Birdland, this time alleging that the city's citations were not only erroneous — he says that by rendering the venue a "members only" social club and not serving free barbecue to passerby, he's no longer committing code violations — but that they could have been racially motivated. Parayno said the city didn't just shutter Birdland on Friday; it also squelched the Filipino American Jazz Festival he'd planned for that weekend. Now he's marshaled several legal defense teams, including Filipinos for Affirmative Action, the Asian Law Caucus, and the Los Angeles-based law firm Inumerable and Inumerable to fight Berkeley City Council on this issue. The subject of his e-mail? "ABSOLUTELY NO FILIPINOS ALLOWED: City shuts down first Filipino American Jazz Festival in Berkeley."
We're still waiting for a response from the city, but we'll keep you updated as more news arrives.