DIY venue 222 Ormsby is up and running again, but some old problems persist | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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DIY venue 222 Ormsby is up and running again, but some old problems persist

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Outside 222 Ormsby - ©2019 GOOGLE
  • ©2019 Google
  • Outside 222 Ormsby

Two years after code violations forced it to shut down, the Pittsburgh punk venue 222 Ormsby is fighting to come back. 

The DIY space located at 222 Ormsby Ave. in Mount Oliver was infamous along the East Coast from the mid-2000s through the mid-2010s for hosting bands like The Menzingers, Suicide Machines, and Bomb The Music Industry!, to name just a few. However, like most house venues that aren’t properly sanctioned, the place eventually racked up enough code violations by the Mount Oliver borough to close its doors a few years back.

But in August 2018, Dave Issod, a Pittsburgh transplant who moved here in 2010 for grad school, bought 222 Ormsby shortly after it went on the market. Issod tells City Paper that he was involved with punk communities during his youth in New Jersey and Philadelphia, but that his association with 222 Ormsby stems from an urban exploring group.

“Nobody knows who I am, and I’m okay with that, in a sense,” he says.

Nevertheless, it’s Issod’s mission to preserve the notorious piece of punk history and facilitate its transition into a sustainable, functioning venue and art space. Issod, a practicing therapist with a side-interest in affordable housing, had owned a couple of properties prior to purchasing Ormsby and saw the opportunity as a way “to give back” to the local music scene.

“Being on the same level with the bands, and just that feeling of being connected with these people when I felt so disconnected from everyone at my high school, or whatever it was. The importance of space is huge,” he says.

Given his familiarity with owning properties, Issod figured he was well-versed enough to undertake the acquisition. And furthermore, he could prevent the property from falling into the hands of outside developers.

So far, Issod has made some much-needed renovations (new roof, plans to replace the smoke-scented floor and fix the ceilings) and also got it hooked up with permits from Mount Oliver borough. It’s been re-zoned as a split residential/commercial property, which theoretically meant that all "artistic performances" there will be fully legal — unlike any of the shows that went down there prior —and that it will be able to host art galleries and serve as a studio space for local artists.

Inside 222 Ormsby - PHOTO: DAVID ISSOD
  • Photo: David Issod
  • Inside 222 Ormsby

However, on March 15, he received a “notice of zoning violation” from borough manager Rick Hopkinson.

In part, the letter read, "It has come to my attention that the basement of 222 Ormsby is currently being used to host bands, as evidenced in various Facebook postings and resident complaints which is inconsistent with your approved use."

The venue was approved with the classification of "studio, art, photography, or music." The letter states that hosting bands "more closely aligns with the 'bar/nightclub' use classification."

It continues, "a 'bar/nightclub' is not a permitted use in a residential mixed-use district. Therefore, you must discontinue all activities that violate your approved use." 

Issod was given 30 days to comply with these terms. If he fails to comply, he could pay up to $500 in fees, including court costs. Any musical performances after the planned April 6 gig are up in the air. Issod plans to appeal the violation sometime in May, but until then he and his team of volunteers will have to wait it out.

"We are currently working on sound-proofing and obtaining a parking area nearby," Issod wrote to CP in an email. "So I hope the borough may see these efforts as well and allow 222 to continue to operate. "

No matter what the outcome ends up being, Issod stresses that he wants 222 Ormsby to maintain its original character and continue to operate in accordance with DIY ethos. He says this is a passion project of his, and that he doesn’t want to make a cent off of it. The building’s tenants, Dan Delucia (World’s Scariest Police Chases) and Amanda Gates, as well as Ryan Williamson of Signals Midwest, have been integral to getting it up and running again. However, Issod is patiently waiting for the right people to spearhead the space’s musical operations going forward.

“I’m not trying to hurry that process because I think that will most definitely land me with the wrong type of people. I want to work with some people to see their commitment enough to see that they don’t see it as a spot for them to try and rip off bands or to get rich themselves. I’m not trying to get anyone in there to mess it up.”

The first 222 Ormsby show since Issod’s involvement took place on March 2, and the next one will go down April 6, with Killer of Sheep, Thunder Vest, Crooked Cobras, and Fuck Yeah, Dinosaurs!.

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