The Irenic, the North Park all-ages live music venue located at Missiongathering Church on Polk Avenue, was shut down Monday by the city of San Diego, according to church officials.
"After nearly six years of opening the doors of our church to host all-age events for the North Park community, the Irenic has been ordered by the city of San Diego to cease operations, effective immediately," the church's lead pastor and executive director, Brandan Robertson, said via a statement on Missiongathering's website. "We believe this order is a violation of our rights as a faith community to use our property to both bless the community and generate income to support our ministry, and are seeking legal counsel on how to proceed. It is our sincere hope that we will be able to begin hosting events again soon."
According to the Irenic's Facebook page, the city ordered the venue "to cease operations effective immediately due to 'zoning violations.'"
In an email to SoundDiego Tuesday, San Diego Communications Department spokesman Scott Robinson said the Irenic never applied for any permits to operate a live-music venue and that any changes in operations from church to concert venue at the site require review for city regulations, building code compliance, noise retrictions, etc.
"In May 2019, the City of San Diego Development Services Department, Code Enforcement Division opened an investigation of the Mission Gathering Christian Church, located at 3090 Polk Ave.," Robinson wrote. "The investigation revealed that the church never applied for any permits to operate a concert venue at the site and was issued a violation notice. The church use was a previously conforming use, as it was allowed by right in the zone. However, changes to the use of the site for concerts or as a shelter must be reviewed for compliance with the current limited use regulations for assembly/entertainment, which include hours and noise restrictions and all other applicable building regulations, including maximum occupancy, ingress/egress, fire, health and safety, among others."
For a full list of alleged violations, view the city's Civil Penalty Notice here.
The order from the city to cease operations also means the church's weekly homeless shelter will also come to a stop.
Robertson says his Tuesday night shelter has fed, housed and helped more than a thousand people get back on their feet and has also provided job resouces.
In response, Missiongathering Church held a news conference Tuesday at the venue and urged "San Diego to cease these attacks on our church's outreach ministries and to work with us in a more reasonable manner to continue operating as a faith community."
The Irenic ceased booking live music for a time in late 2017, but by February 2018, the church had restructured its concert operation deal with show promoters (such as the Casbah and Soda Bar, among others) and live performances resumed.
As of now, there are more than 20 shows booked at the Irenic through December, including Jay Som (Sept. 12), Phora (Sept. 13), Dreamers (Oct. 24), (Sandy) Alex G (Oct. 26), Tiny Moving Parts (Nov. 8), Strung Out (Nov. 14), Daughters (Dec. 6) and Son Little (Dec. 11), among others.
If those shows will go on as planned -- and where exactly they'll be held -- remains to be seen. Stay tuned to SoundDiego.com for updates as more information is made available.
Dustin Lothspeich is SoundDiego's senior associate editor, a San Diego Music Award-winning musician, and talent buyer at The Merrow. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.