Revolution center, Garden City try to live in harmony

The year-old concert house in Garden City has been deemed a ‘chronic nuisance,’ but the owner and police are working on it

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comSeptember 15, 2013 

  • How does it work with the Knitting Factory?

    Do Boise police regularly bill the Knitting Factory Concert House in Boise for overtime? No.

    “There’s a very good working relationship in place where businesses will alert the department if they’re having an event that may require some extra patrol,” police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said. If extra security is needed, then event venues, including the Knitting Factory, pay.

    “The Knitting Factory in Boise hasn’t experienced the kinds of issues that would result in repeated calls and the draining of police and medical services,” said Greg Marchant, Knitting Factory Entertainment CEO. “So we haven’t had the need to discuss such fees.”

  • Katy Moeller

    Katy will celebrate 20 years in newspapers in 2014, including eight at the Statesman. She’s a community reporter for Garden City, West Ada and Canyon County.

In its first year, the Revolution Concert House and Event Center drew about 100,000 people to 80 events. Owner Creston Thornton hopes to host 120 events this year.

The Revolution is best known as a venue for concerts — rapper Snoop Dogg has rocked the house twice — but half of its bookings aren’t for music. It has hosted the Northwest Tactical Expo, a wedding show, MMA boxing, the Magic Mike all-male revue, high school proms and quinceaneras.

With a capacity of 2,200 — more than double Boise’s 999-person Knitting Factory Concert House — the event center was welcomed last August as a new midsize venue for the Treasure Valley entertainment scene. But along with the positives of a popular and profitable new business have come noise and other crowd- and alcohol-related problems.

The Revolution Center has been found in violation of the city’s “chronic nuisance” ordinance, and is being investigated for a second violation. Such a violation means three nuisance behaviors or activities, such as disturbing the peace, have occurred in a 60-day period.

If the issues aren’t addressed, a property owner could face daily fines of $100, closure and civil penalties.

Thornton, who said he’s invested about $1 million in the old grocery building, plans to be there for the long haul.

“We didn’t make that big of an investment to be a problem,” he said. “We made that big of an investment to be successful. We want to be a good neighbor.”

He said he’s responded to the noise complaints in myriad ways, including adding more soundproofing. On average, he said, 22 security officers work inside the event center, and he adds more if there are concerns about potential problems.

“I think over the last few months it’s gotten better — fewer calls for service,” said Garden City Police Chief James Bensley.

Garden City has billed Thornton more than $40,000 to cover overtime pay for police officers. Thornton said he agreed to pay overtime for one show — Snoop Dogg’s End of the World Party in December — but the bills keep coming. Those bills remain a point of contention.

POLICE CALLS

From August 2012 to August 2013, there were a total of 154 calls for service at the Revolution. Officers filed reports on about 60 of those incidents over the course of the year, including disturbing the peace, trespassing, minor consumption of alcohol, battery, DUI, petit theft, and resisting and obstructing.

Bensley’s staff of 26 commissioned officers and seven non-commissioned officers responded to 21,817 calls for service of all kinds in 2012.

The Revolution had more police reports than all of the other 10 bars and restaurants that serve alcohol in Garden City combined, Bensley said.

Concerned that incidents would increase after Revolution’s first year, Bensley said he obtained nine years of data on the Knitting Factory from Boise police. The data show 1,247 incidents (police reports) from 2004 to 2012 — about 138 reports per year for everything from fights to found property.

But incidents actually dropped from a nine-year high of 307 in 2004 to a low of just 58 in 2011. There were 71 in 2012.

Boise police’s crime analyst said there were numerous “directed patrols” and “special assignments” at the Knitting Factory (formerly Big Easy) from 2004 to 2007, meaning that officers were assigned to patrol that area. Thornton and his brother, Paul, owned the Big Easy until 2006.

It’s not just the number of Revolution incidents that Bensley is concerned about, but also their nature.

On March 14, police found a man who’d been ejected from the concert house urinating on a vehicle in the parking lot. He had such a high blood alcohol content (.377, more than four times the legal limit) that the jail refused to accept him.

Less than a week later, a woman was found passed out near a Revolution restroom. Her friends told police she’d consumed nine to 12 drinks at the concert house. She was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Thornton said his general manager talked to the woman about what she drank and where. She told the manager that she drank rum in a car in the parking lot before entering the concert house, according to Thornton.

One of the most serious incidents occurred during a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony concert Nov. 30. A fight in the parking lot led to other fights. Garden City officers at the scene called for backup, and dozens of officers across the Valley responded. Nine people were arrested on a variety of charges, including battery, resisting and obstructing, trespass, minor in possession and failure to appear in court.

The largest number of officers the department has deployed is 10 — just three on overtime — for the June 28 appearance of rapper Tyga. Bensley said that was because violent crimes, including shootings, stabbings and fights, had occurred at Tyga shows in other cities. The city also denied the catering permit for the show, so no alcohol was served.

There were five calls for service and three arrests during the show.

NOISE COMPLAINTS

The Revolution is in an old grocery store near Glenwood Street and Chinden Boulevard, one of the busiest intersections in the state. It’s a nexus of noise, with Expo Idaho, Les Bois Park and Hawks Memorial Stadium along the roaring roads.

So aren’t residents in that area used to the noise? Yes and no.

The noise generated by baseball games, horse racing and the 10-day Western Idaho Fair might annoy neighbors, but it’s the booming beat from the Revolution that is most difficult for some to ignore.

Thornton said all shows at the concert house wrap up by midnight or 12:30 a.m., and only a couple of dance nights have gone as late as 2 a.m. There are no restrictions on how late events can go, though alcohol service ends at 2 a.m.

Complaints about the electric dance music from Tiesto’s March 8 show started coming in at 11 p.m., according to police records. Thornton was notified. He closed the back door, which had been opened for ventilation, and asked the DJ to turn down the volume.

“I did notice a difference in the volume,” reported a Garden City officer. “However, the complaints were still coming in.”

Charles “Dale” Fiske’s family filed a half-dozen noise complaints between October and May. Their Boise home is on the Bench, directly above a trailer park on Chinden near West Coffey Street, about a quarter-mile from the back of the Revolution building.

Fiske told the Statesman that during some concerts, his bedroom windows vibrate from the bass.

“It’s kind of like Chinese water torture,” said Fiske, 65, who grew up in the house and moved back to it about 15 years ago. “It’s there all the time. You don’t hear the music, you feel it on your body.”

The Oct. 25 Bassnectar concert triggered more than two dozen complaints. One Garden City resident who couldn’t sleep wrote an angry email to Mayor John Evans: “The walls and windows of my home (yes, it’s a ‘trailer house’) are rattling,” she wrote. Her name was redacted in the copy obtained by the Statesman through a public records request.

The woman said it was the second night in a row her family had been kept up by noise. The Revolution had a Club Rev kickoff party — a Top 40 dance night for people 16 and up — the night before.

Residents on Lake Harbor Lane, 52nd Street and West Riverbend Lane also filed complaints.

Gwen Thomas, who lives east of the race track, complained about the thumping bass.

“We were wondering if people from the rim and west side could hear it much,” said Thomas, who suffers from migraines.

The 231-home Willowbrook Estates senior living community is just west of the Revolution. But Barbara Miller, president of the homeowners association, checked with several members and said none had complaints.

“I have the best hearing here, and I have not heard one iota,” said Miller, who added that she does hear thumping from music at nearby Shorty’s Saloon with some regularity.

Garden City police say they haven’t received noise complaints about Shorty’s since August 2010.

LETTER OF NOTICE

On Oct. 29, Garden City Development Services Director Jenah Thornborrow sent a letter to Thornton.

“If an event such as the one held this past Oct. 25th occurs again, the city will seek the revocation of your conditional use permit and close your operation,” Thornborrow wrote, referring to the night of the Bassnectar show. “Future events will be monitored from the outside by the Garden City Police Department to ensure that no such disturbances occur.”

Chief Bensley said the department no longer has devices to measure noise levels. Reports are based on complaints instead.

An officer responding after midnight to the Fiskes’ house on May 25 said he could “distinctly hear the music from the concert venue” standing in the backyard.

Thomas and Fiske both say the noise from Revolution isn’t as bad lately. Fiske was home for the Aug. 26 Snoop Dogg concert.

“It was noticeable, but tolerable,” Fiske said. “At least we could sleep in the house, and it didn’t make the whole house throb.”

Garden City has about 21 ordinances that address noise issues, a city official said, including the new “disorderly premises” ordinance. It prohibits any gathering or event “disruptive to public peace, health, safety or welfare” due to crowds, loud music or other noise between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on two or more occasions in a three-month period.

Music or noise audible 150 feet from the premises is “prima facie evidence” of being disruptive, the ordinance says. Those found guilty of hosting or promoting a disorderly premise might be guilty of a misdemeanor.

BILLS AND BOOZE

The concert promotion business starts with ticket sales, but that’s not where the money is.

“Overall, you barely make money on the tickets,” Thornton said. “You need to sell alcohol.”

Until the Revolution obtained a state liquor license in May, it depended on catering permits approved by the city to serve alcohol. Taking the recommendation of the Police Department, the city clerk denied catering permits for four shows in 2013: Tyga, the Music of ABBA, Bullet for My Valentine, and Method Man and Redman.

Thornton said the permit denials led to canceling one show, multiple dance nights and private rentals.

“We lost over $100,000 during this time frame in sales and income from these denied permits,” he said.

Thornton has paid more than $30,000 of the $40,000-plus billed for police overtime, though he had a contract with the department only for the December Snoop Dogg concert. He said he felt he had to pay or jeopardize his catering permits.

Thornton provided the Statesman with a copy of the agreement he signed. On it, he noted that he had increased his security staff to 32 for the Dec. 20 show.

“Mr. Thornton did not sign any agreement that he’d pay for overtime,” said Charles Wadams, Garden City’s prosecuting attorney. He said the agreement was verbal.

“The city would invoice him for the overtime costs, and he would pay the invoices,” Wadams said of the verbal agreement.

Since obtaining his liquor license, Thornton has stopped paying police overtime bills. He doesn’t understand why police continue to bill him, even for mellow events such as the John Hiatt and the Combo show, which drew around 500 people, most of them 40 and older.

There were no calls for service, arrests or citations, according to police records. Thornton was billed $753.16 for three officers who spent three to five hours at the event.

“It’s like adding a third, if not more, to every one of my security bills,” Thornton said. “On smaller shows, it’s making me noncompetitive.”

LOOKING TO OTHER AREAS

Bensley said police aren’t present at every event. He and his staff talk to other departments and research performers coming to the Revolution. If they find acts led to trouble in other cities, they beef up personnel assigned to an event.

“We’re still in the learning stages. We’ve never had an operation like this in our community,” he said.

The chief said he doesn’t have an extra $40,000 in his $3.6 million budget for overtime at the Revolution.

“Garden City continues to work with Mr. Thornton on this issue,” Wadams said.

He said the city can’t compel the Revolution to pay the bills, unless it gets a court order.

“Generally, if any property is determined to be a chronic nuisance or a disorderly premises, the court can order restitution be paid to the city,” Wadams said.

‘BACK TO THE TABLE’

Thornton and Garden City officials agree that they went through growing pains last year.

“We overwhelmed them,” Thornton said. “I think it was a growing issue on both sides. But I think we need to get back to the table.”

The police chief echoed the sentiment.

“We need to make this work. It’s just a matter of getting to that comfort level for everyone,” Bensley said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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