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Don't Blame Us 

by Paul Thornton & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & O & lt;/span & ver the past week, the Big Easy has been blamed for the closing of Rock Coffee ("Scene Change," 8/3/06). We don't think that's fair.


To our understanding, Rock Coffee signed a lease to operate as a coffee house. Their lease never gave them the right to do live music in their venue, but we were told that they presented themselves as a coffee house that would do some stand up, open mic comedy and some more acoustical and mellow shows. And other than the occasional more rock-based show, this is how they operated when they opened up. However, within the last six months the musical lineup has changed to amplified full bands.


Their coffee house was never built to handle this kind of music, and it was causing multiple problems in the building. Vibrations were shaking the whole mall area and our restaurant, and since their walls were so thin for this kind of use the music was heard throughout the whole building; it was especially loud in our restaurant. The crowds for Rock Coffee started showing up (day and night) and hanging out on the sidewalk in front of their place and crowding in front of our restaurant doors, and Rock Coffee had no security personnel to alleviate any of these situations.


I was told that the landlord had conversations with the owners of Rock Coffee and had given them warnings months before we ever contacted them about this on July 17. After that, we were told that Rock Coffee and the landlord came to an agreement to move their business. We do not own the building, and we do not control what happens to all the tenants.


The bottom line is that we have always supported the local music scene. It costs thousands of dollars to open up our venue to any show, and thus to do local band shows and regional bands in our venue takes bands that have built up strong followings. That only happens by working their way up through smaller venues first. We send agents and bands to other smaller venues all the time in hopes that they can establish a following and play our venue the next time through. Smaller venues are not competitors to us; quite the opposite, they can be filters for more business for us as they help bands grow.


Also, we want as many entertainment options as can be right around us; it draws more people to our part of town on their nights out. In Boise, we have other restaurants, multiple bars, a movie theater and a comedy club all in the same complex with our venue. A bar right next door to us has bands play all the time, and we have never had a problem of any kind with that -- in fact, we like it. But they built their establishment for this use, put in the proper acoustical treatments, and they staff it correctly to handle the patrons. Our two establishments work hand in hand to build the block for entertainment.


However, when a business next door to any business moves in after you have been there running your business and starts operating in a manner that chases off your clientele and does not want to operate their establishment in the way they portrayed themselves, what do you do? We put up with it for a long time because of our desire to help foster the local music scene, but ultimately (the last few months especially) the toll it was taking on our business was really growing. We finally had to ask our landlord to help find a working relationship that would work for all, but we were neither privy to nor part of any negotiations for the business to leave.


Our venue is a very diverse establishment in that we draw many different genres of crowds down on different nights of the week. We have concerts of all genres and dance nights; we do symphony events, private parties, wedding receptions, comedians, speakers, fundraisers, gospel brunches and other diverse events. We were getting many complaints from customers, especially those who rented the facility for a private event and had problems with the noise and crowds from Rock Coffee. These issues finally reached a point where our business was being significantly affected in a negative manner, and we had to contact the landlord for help. We put millions of dollars into our venue to open in Spokane, and we employ 126 people in Spokane, and thus it affects a lot more people than just us if our business starts to suffer. We had no choice but to ask our landlord to talk to Rock Coffee about the effects they were having on our business.


It's also quite funny to us how we are portrayed as the "Big Bully," or the big corporate monster. The truth is we are a small independent business whose days are spent battling the big corporate promoters like Live Nation. The industry has gotten much tougher to draw bands to secondary markets due to the monopolization of the industry by Live Nation, and we fight every day to bring good music to markets like Spokane and Boise. So if any business understands the role of the underdog, it is ours.


We work every day to help break new bands into these markets, and it is a real fight. We are one of the last few independent promoters left in the country. So we especially take offense to being compared in any way to the corporate bullies who are out there hurting our whole industry.


We only wish Rock Coffee the best in their new location, and we hope they build and operate their new location in a way that provides a showcase for local and regional bands to grow in this market -- that will only be good for all of us.





Paul Thornton is president of Boise-based Bravo Entertainment, owner of the Big Easy Concert House.

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