An owner of a Frankford warehouse where police busted a large marijuana party Saturday says a tenant had sublet the space for the party contrary to terms of the lease and a nonsmoking policy.
The city's Department of Licenses and Inspections identified the owner of the warehouse on the 4500 block of Worth Street as Gimme Shelter L.L.C. Gimme Shelter is run by Elm City Property Management and is marketed under the Loom Philly brand, said Chris Dardaris, a co-owner of all three companies.
On Tuesday, L&I spokeswoman Karen Guss said investigators found more than 20 provisions of the fire, building, and business codes were violated at the warehouse, including impaired or inoperable sprinklers and past-due inspections. The exact number of citations is still being determined, she said.
Dardaris said the building has operating fire-suppression and monitoring systems and valid certifications. He said other citations from L&I for things like the fire alarm wiring's being cut and lack of assembly permits were the fault of his tenant, who rented out the space without his knowledge and against the terms of his lease.
"L&I won't issue the violations to the tenant. They issue it to the building owner, so the tenant could care less because they know they don't get it, we do," Dardaris said. "Issuing violations to the tenant would be the best action, so it has some teeth."
Dardaris said his organization operates close to a half-million square feet of office industrial flex space in the city and rents most of that to artists and innovators.
About 10 to 15 people were renting space at the Worth Street warehouse, Dardaris said. None of the spaces is zoned residential, and sleeping in the building is prohibited, he said.
The tenant who rented out his space to the marijuana party's organizers had signed a lease saying he would use the space only as a recording studio, Dardaris said.
The company has had problems with the tenant for some time and has been trying to evict him for months with little success, according to Dardaris.
"We've given him 10-day notice after 10-day notice … but he plays the system," Dardaris said.
The tenant, identified by Dardaris as Darryl Jones, declined to comment when contacted Tuesday.
It was 3 a.m. Sunday, Dardaris said, when he learned about the pot party and the subsequent raid at his warehouse, where police said they confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana, 100 pounds of THC-infused edibles, $50,000 in cash, and four guns. The party organizer, identified as local marijuana activist N.A. Poe, also known as Rich Tamaccio, allegedly charged people $50 to attend.
Poe and 21 other people were arrested during the raid. Poe remains in jail on $250,000 bail on various drug charges and charges of recklessly endangering another person and causing a catastrophe.
Jeremy-Evan Alva, Poe's attorney, who is also a lawyer with the national legal counsel for NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), said he visited Poe on Tuesday and he was "in good spirits for a person in prison."
Alva said both the raid and Poe's high bail were "excessive." He plans to argue for a bail reduction Monday.
"We believe that bail is extremely high for a person that is alleged to have organized a peaceful marijuana party," Alva said. "Hopefully we will get his bail reduced to a reasonable number where he can get out and fight his case from outside the prison walls."
Among the L&I citations Dardaris' company is facing is that the fire-alarm wiring allegedly was cut. Dardaris said he believes that the people who threw the party may have disabled the system because marijuana was being smoked inside.
"We have valid paperwork [on the fire system], but we don't know if it was vandalized because these guys were smoking in the building and we operate a nonsmoking building," Dardaris said.
Other citations issued, such as one for the accumulation of rags and paint, may have been because some studio painters who lease space in the building had spray paint and rags in their spaces, Dardaris said.
On Monday, Guss, the L&I spokeswoman, had likened the conditions at the building to those at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, Calif., where 36 people died in a fire last year.
"Life-safety issues and what L&I does are of paramount concern to us as an organization. The administration and their efforts are important and needed in the city," Dardaris said Tuesday. "However, given the circumstances of what happened in Oakland, buildings like these are coming under increased and unreasonable scrutiny."