High Vibe Society Artisan Collective — the workspace for creatives that opened its doors on 3rd Street in summer 2017 — is in danger of closing.
But the reason why depends on who you ask.
High Vibe Society owner Erin Ulcickas received a verbal notice from the property's landlord on Wednesday, March 21, stating they will be filing eviction paperwork on Monday, March 26, because the art-focused organization is approximately $12,000 behind on rent.
It's an issue that, according to Ulcickas, arose due to an inability to hold events at the space found at 989 3rd Street. Hosting these large-scale get-togethers is High Vibe Society's main source of income, but the business was unable to put on a variety of its planned offerings because of how the site is zoned through the city of South Lake Tahoe.
The building is located in the Tahoe Valley Area Plan / Town Center Mixed Use Corridor (TC-MUC) district. Among the allowed uses for the property are professional offices (a category that includes art studios) and a few commercial services, but the site requires a special use permit for privately owned assembly and entertainment — like concerts that Ulcickas was hoping to implement at High Vibe Society.
"We recognize that the business is fulfilling a niche and it's a great idea, concept and shared space, but we're also tied to what requirements are necessary," said Courtney Weiche, assistant planner in the city's planning division.
These requirements include ADA-compliant restrooms and sufficient parking for event attendees. Currently, the site does not meet these needs.
"If it was just an artist studio, that's not a big concern. [Ulcickas] is talking about upwards of 200 people for a music event, and that has a very real impact for parking when you only have seven spaces for yourself," Weiche said. "Furthermore, when you have that many people you have to have the required bathrooms and ADA opportunities, and of course any sort of fire code requirements."
"The difficulty we've had with High Vibe is that the proposal, when it first came in, was a lot of great ideas, but it was a lot going on. We had to find a category that fit and what was allowed — the path of least resistance," she continued. "It's a unique project, and it's not just 'I'm opening a restaurant or a yoga studio.' There are a lot of things she's trying to do."
When she leased the space, Ulcickas believed it was zoned industrially, which would allow her to host larger events at High Vibe Society.
"I hadn't heard anything about [planning] since [signing the lease] until December of this year when a series of inspectors were sent over," she said, adding that she was forced to close the High Vibe Society doors until she had a meeting with the city's planning division.
It was at this meeting that she learned the building is not zoned to allow for concerts or ceramics classes (a partnership with Lake Tahoe Community College that Ulcickas had begun exploring).
"As a startup we don't have the kind of money to be able to do [these changes]. We don't have a ton of superfluous money to fix these problems," Ulcickas said. "Our occupancy was limited to 49 people, which no longer allows us to have events in the space — events we were relying on to be able to pay our rent. We've been paying what we can, but it's gotten to the point of it being too great a burden to bear, and we're going to have to vacate."
Ulcickas has launched a GoFundMe campaign (www.gofundme.com/save-high-vibe-society) in an effort to raise money for High Vibe Society to pay its rent or begin the search for a new location that would permit the business to host a wider variety of events.
"We're not sure of the timeframe on when we'd have to be out by because there's no court-ordered eviction that has started, but we're trying to stay ahead of it so we can get the money to pay that down and whatever the extras are going to be to allow people already working here to have that space," Ulcickas said.