Who mourns for Ichabod's North, the Spokane rock club that three weeks ago succumbed to fire? Few people, it seems. Talk around town has less to do with loss and more to do with promise, optimism and new clubs. The attitude is overwhelmingly positive, as if to declare that live original rock will survive in this town as long as there are audiences with a thirst for loud bass, guitar and drum.
George Silva of local band Five Foot Thick did the booking and worked the door at Ichabod's for the last year. Since the fire, he's relocated to the Quarterhorse, where he's working to expand that bar's live music capabilities.
"We're not quite there with the Quarterhorse yet, but we're working on it," he says. "I'm really just looking forward."
Shortly before 4 am on April 15, a fire broke out in the basement of Ichabod's North at 1827 N. Division. Flames burned through the floor of the main level, and heat, smoke and water took their toll on the rest of the structure.
Last week, fire investigators (who can make arrests) ruled out accidental causes for the fire, then charged tavern owner Peter A. Martin, 33, in connection with the blaze. A fire investigator with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is participating in the ongoing investigation, and on Friday, authorities transferred Martin's case to U.S. District Court.
Martin now stands charged with three counts: arson, conspiracy and attempting to destroy a building involved in interstate commerce. The motive?
"It's an arson-for-profit case," says Lance Hart, ATF senior special agent.
Martin's estranged wife, Heather Martin, alleged to investigators that Martin "had a way to get out of their failing business," according to police documents filed in court. She said "her husband planned on hiring someone to set fire to Ichabod's North... She said he was going to pay the person $10,000 out of the $100,000 he was going to receive from the insurance policy."
Martin was being held in temporary detention prior to press time, but was scheduled for a release hearing on Wednesday, according to his attorney. The allegations, says attorney David Miller, are untrue.
"I don't think Mr. Martin did anything wrong, and hopefully time and good investigation by the officers involved will verify that," says Miller. He notes that Martin has no criminal record.
Music scene insiders say Ichabod's was in decline for some time before its fiery demise. Bands complained about unfair treatment, and the staff reportedly harbored some unsavory characters.
Fire investigators Hart and Lt. Mike Zambryski of the Spokane Fire Department say they have a number of leads to pursue before they can paint a complete picture of the alleged arson.
Yet since Spokane has only a handful of rock clubs, losing even one stings.
"It was kind of a staple," says Silva. "It was such an easy spot to throw a show."
"It's too bad that it's gone," agrees Bob Gallagher of 4,000 Holes music store. "It was a good place. A lot of good bands played there. It has a lot of history to it."