After more than two decades, Hour Haus to close by end of July

Hour Haus, the practice space, recording studio, and performance space that has stood in Station North since well before the area became an arts district, will close at the end of July.

Ray Schafer, a landlord and operator of Hour Haus for about 15 years, said the building's owners decided they did not want to renew the lease and would gut the building "stem to stern" to turn it into office space.

A call to the owners, listed in public records as G. W. Helfrich Realty LLC, seeking further details on the plans was not immediately returned. An employee who answered the phone at Artist & Craftsman Supply, a ground-level store beneath the Hour Haus, said the retailer would remain.

Schafer indicated that the older plumbing and heating, wear and tear on the space— ranging from graffiti to broken toilets—and a visit from the fire department during a recent music festival led to the decision.

"We've been on a short leash with the owner for probably the last five years, since the original owner of the building passed away and his sons took it over," said Schafer. "They are not very hip on the music scene and the fact that all the kids are pretty much disrespectful of the place."

He was quick to note that the tenants who rent space in the building and use it to rehearse or record "were very respectful."

"None of the tenants trashed the placed," he continued. "There were people who would take out trash, re-line the trash liners, all that stuff. The problem was when outsiders came in."

Fire department officials came to the building during Future Fest, an all-day experimental music festival, back in late March. Mike Franklin, who has been a tenant in the building since 2003 and helps organize and run events there, said he was told by fire marshalls they needed a permit to host a crowd of 50 or more.

"That was a surprise to me, because we've had events there before where the police have come, they've walked the space, checked it out," he said. "And I said, 'This is what we're doing. Is this okay?' And they said, 'Yeah, just keep people out of the street.' And they left."

He also noted it was the first event at Hour Haus since the previous fall, when Baltimore Folk Fest had one of its five stages there.

Schafer says the owner, facing the possibility of a $1,000 fine, had had enough. Despite attempts by Schafer to get the proper permits or even up the rent, it was decided the building would be converted.

As for the artists, Franklin said he hopes to organize a meeting with the other people involved in the space to plot their next move.

"Obviously, we're not going to stop making music or stop making art, so it's just a matter of where and when," he said.

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