City Shuts Down Decade-Old Philly Music Venue for WXPN Set

Cease and desist thy banjo strumming!

jameys

When you think of a DIY music venue, you probably think of a warehouse in Kensington where people with cool glasses, beards, tattoos and piercings drink Pabst Blue Ribbon while listening to other people with cool glasses, beards, tattoos and piercings play loud music. But Jamey’s House of Music was not that kind of place.

jameys house of musicLocated at 5841 Overbrook Avenue in the Overbrook Farms section of Philadelphia, just off City Avenue, Jamey’s House of Music (formerly the Psalm Salon) was known for attracting more of a WXPN/Philadelphia Folk Festival crowd during its existence as a BYOB live music venue, which began in 2003.


Over the years, artists like Leon Redbone and Tracy Grammer played in the 60-seat venue, which boasted impeccable sound, 32-track live recording capabilities, and even homestyle Cantonese box dinners for $8, cooked by the lady of the house. Philadelphia Folk Festival founder Gene Shay hosted many events there. But that all ended on Friday night when the Department of Licenses and Inspections showed up.

L&I issued Jamey's House of Music a cease-operations order after an inspector determined that Jamey's was an "illegal nightclub," reports L&I spokesperson Rebecca Corcoran Swanson. According to city records, 5841 Overbrook Avenue is zoned only for residential use. Owner Jamey Reilly lives there with his family and says he does have a commercial activity license, but L&I has indicated that he needs to obtain a variance to be zoned as a nightclub.

Swanson says that L&I received a complaint about Jamey's on November 29th and again on December 2nd and that L&I received a notice from police about activity there on November 30th. Reilly admits that the police did show up on the 30th after an apparent noise complaint at a concert hosted by Shay. "But they didn't even come in or say anything to me," he says. "They could barely hear anything from my porch." Then L&I and police paid Jamey's a visit on Friday and issued the order to close up shop.

"We've received a tremendous outpouring of support from the community," says Reilly, who has worked as a sound engineer or tour manager for acts like Aerosmith, Frank Zappa, and Mahavishnu Orchestra. "I'm going to let the lawyers advise me. My thought on the matter is, if there's one person who doesn't like what I'm doing, we need to sit down and talk about it. If that's not possible, we've already started looking at alternate solutions. I may just get out of Philadelphia if there's a more welcoming municipality that will support us. But I've lived here for 20 years. I love my neighbors."

Last Saturday's show featuring the Dan May Band was moved to the New Leaf Club in Bryn Mawr, and all other upcoming shows are either on hold or cancelled altogether while Reilly regroups. "We're going to get whatever petitions or letters of support from pretty high-end people, who will vouch for what we've been doing here," he promises. "We don't have teenagers urinating on the lawn or drinking beer out here. We're just a bunch of middle-agers enjoying good music."

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  • Susan Reilly-Casper

    This is a very unfair move against a Wonderful place that plays soft , beautiful music that soothes you body and soul. Would you rather have one packed to the rafters , loud music, breaking every fire code known to man, with people dying from shoddy construction and porches collapsing, or piling on top of one another dying as fire rages around them? This seems an act of a vengeful politician, not one of any thinking person! Time to picket city hall and call in the media!

  • Rich-D

    Tough Break!

  • christinelavin

    What a lovely thing Jamey has been doing — opening his home to musicians, friends, and strangers who all love music. I hope there is a way to work things out so that everyone is happy and music can continue to find such a welcoming home in Philly.

  • Ilona

    The move by L&I really hurt the community and the casual neighborhood venue of being able to listen to good music, without being in a nightclub. I have enjoyed being there over the past year. There was never inappropriate behavior. Just people enjoying music in the company of others.