The bands hadn't even unpacked the equipment yet when authorities showed up to end a planned all-ages rock show last Thursday at Rumors, a used-clothing store near Virginia Commonwealth University.
The raid, which included more than a dozen Richmond police officers, city code officials and agents from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, is the latest in what some see as an ongoing crackdown on the city's burgeoning underground music and art scene — one with the potential to snuff it out.
The Rumors show was to include three bands, serve no alcohol and seek a voluntary admissions donation meant to help defray the bands' costs.
“It blows my mind,” says Matt White, a prominent local musician scheduled to play that night. “I don't know how anyone in their right mind can say we're going to bust this really small super-grassroots arts organization and make it a huge hassle for them to create music in the city.”
White arrived as police were wrapping up and issuing the store's owner, Casey Longyear, a summons. Longyear declined comment for this story.
The law enforcement team responsible was assembled by Richmond's Community Assisted Public Safety program, known as CAPS, according to a spokesman for the ABC board, who confirmed his agency's part in the raid.
“The city was inspecting. … this clothing store,” says ABC's Philip Bogenberger. “ABC was present but there were no arrests made by ABC.” Bogenberger says he knows of no specific information that might have hinted at illegal sale of alcohol at Rumors, which is on Harrison Street.
No alcohol, but there were violations, says Maj. Norris Evans, who oversees the Richmond Police Department's community youth and intervention services. Rumors was cited for failing to pay tax on admissions and for not having a business license to operate a club. Additionally, Rumors received eight notices of zoning or code violations.
“There's a major distance between a club and a clothing store,” Evans says.
“Most clothing stores don't charge admission to come in and have music.”