Merdekarya Has Been Forced To Shut Down Its Live Music Bar
Merdekarya's live music bar has been shut down indefinitely by Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ)
The restaurant and live music venue, known for giving local artistes and bands a platform and regularly hosting open mic nights, detailed what recently took place in a Facebook post on Thursday, 17 February.
"Here's what happened: Sometime in early December last year, we were raided by MBPJ. This itself is nothing unusual. In fact, in the last two years, MBPJ were probably our most regular visitors, and, truth be told, we're quite fond of their enforcement officers and somewhere in the Multiverse we might actually be friends."
The venue's owners explained that after two "agonising years", one of the officers informed them that they could finally renew their entertainment license again and apply for the renewal
"To which I [Merdekarya's owner] responded 'Bang, saya nak peluk bang, tapi takut kena saman tak ikut SOP' [and] they laughed and then went their merry way," they wrote.
Merdekarya then applied for the renewal of their license and was notified on 28 December that it was approved. They then proceeded with the rest of the legalities by trying to get an approved letter for indoor busking from MBPJ, which the venue mentioned is a requirement stated in the National Security Council's (NSC) slides.
"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."
However, Merdekarya received a call a week later saying that MBPJ was unable to issue a letter
They were told that the proper procedure to restart live music is to apply for a Permit Sementara (renewable every month) for all live music performances, be it indoor busking or persembahan langsung.
"So we applied for this Permit Sementara and waited and waited. Then yesterday, 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', which is, of course, nonsense, since the [NSC] slides clearly says that it isn't. No mention of the persembahan langsung part but whatever lah," they added in the post.
Things then took a turn on Wednesday night, 16 February, when Merdekarya was raided by MBPJ and officers asked to check their documents, etc, in what appeared to have been a pretty standard check
"The officer in charge then asks if the performer onstage has a permit, as in an individual permit to perform, or a busking permit, I'm really not sure and neither was he, to be honest. And he then says all performers need this permit but no one knows who issues it or where to get it. I remember some time back, DBKL was issuing buskers permits, but MBPJ has no such thing (we think). In any case, I don't recall this being a part of any published SOPs," they explained.
Merdekarya also noted that the enforcement officers had no idea what the Permit Sementara was that they had mentioned previously, despite their own licensing department telling them to apply for it.
"They then go on to tell us that we are the only place having live shows and that no one else is allowed to, which is again obviously rubbish, but we diam jelah coz we don't want to get others into trouble."
In conclusion, the officers told the venue that they can only operate with a renewed hiburan license which they won't be renewing for them, as they only renew it for venues that have been paying continuously throughout the past two years. Merderkarya explained in the post that this is not true because their own licensing department had put a hold on renewals.
"So in the end, they said that they'll allow us to finish the show last night, but from today onwards, no more live music or they'll fine us RM25,000. And that's where we stand now," they added.
As it's too much of a risk to be shut down for good or fined for no reason, the event space ended by saying that they intend to just wait until NSC completely lifts all current restrictions and 'aktiviti di kelab malam dan pub' is no longer on the negative list.
They also apologised to all Merdekarya members who previously signed up for discounted drinks and free entry to live shows, and offered for them to cancel and resubmit once they can fully operate again.
In the meantime, if you're a Merdekarya member, you can still enjoy discounted drinks and larger group bookings can still be made at the bar. There just won't be any live music for the time being.
Many have expressed their support upon hearing the news and asked how they can help the venue during this time, to which Merdekarya has replied to drop by for a meal, or a drink or two
"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. So drop by when you can and #DiscoverGrassrootsMusic (not live, but still…)
"We're fine. Merdekarya regulars will know that we've survived worse. So we'll survive. The Live Bar will return."
It's been a tough time for the entertainment industry during this pandemic but it's good to see support in many ways: