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Saturday, August 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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South Hill neighbors sue Rocket Market over free outdoor concerts

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 24, 2017, 9:24 p.m.

They come by car, by foot and by training wheels to listen to music at The Rocket Market on east 43rd in Spokane. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
They come by car, by foot and by training wheels to listen to music at The Rocket Market on east 43rd in Spokane. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

The owners of the popular Rocket Market at 43rd Avenue and Hatch Road are deciding how to respond to a lawsuit targeting the small outdoor jazz and folk music concerts they offer to the neighborhood for free every summer.

“I just found out about it yesterday,” said Alan Shepherd, one of the owners. “We’re deciding what to do now.”

A small group of neighbors have been vocal critics of the concerts for years, Shepherd said. “We used to do three nights a week,” he said. “The neighbors contacted us and we went to two nights a week.”

The change was made about four years ago, around the time the concert hours were changed from 8 to 10 p.m. to 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Only the singers have microphones, Shepherd said. None of the instruments are amplified and no drums are allowed.

“Some customers have complained that they can’t hear the singer,” he said. “You can barely hear it if you’re sitting in the audience.”

He also has an employee whose only duties are to monitor the noise level and make sure no one leaves the beer garden with alcohol.

But Shepherd said his changes did nothing to placate the critics.

“There is no negotiating with them,” he said. “It’s all or nothing for them. I did everything I humanly could, short of stopping it.”

The opponents of the concerts have complained to the Liquor Control Board, the city and the fire department, Shepherd said. They even called Child Protective Services once to complain that too many children were running around unattended, he said.

“They call the police every night, every single night, that we do music,” he said. “They’ve called every agency to get it to stop.”

Shepherd said he has had undercover Liquor Control Board investigators visit his business in response to the complaints, but they didn’t find any problems. “We have a completely clean bill of health from them,” he said.

The lawsuit says the music and noise from revving motorcycle engines is so loud it keeps them up at night, they can’t hear their televisions and can’t read a book. They also say people park in front of their homes, damage landscaping and leave litter behind.

“I’ve even got video of someone throwing beer cans in one of my clients’ front yard,” said attorney Jed Barden, who is representing the group of neighbors.

The residents suing the market are Russell Neff, Lisa Gardner, Bonnie Avery, Kelli Weaver, Eileen Pilant, Kerry Edwards-Peters and Robert Peters. All live within a block and a half of the market, Barden said.

“They’re pretty much getting point blank sound blasted right at them,” he said. “The neighbors have asked the market to be a good neighbor and the owners of the Rocket Market failed to change their behavior. Now we’re at a point where the only option is for the neighbors to go to court so their property rights are protected.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Rocket Market is a nuisance and is inflicting emotional distress on the neighbors. It asks that the business be banned from hosting any event that interferes with the use of their properties, and seeks money for medical expenses that include “psychological treatment.”

Barden said representatives of the market have harassed and intimidated his clients, but refused to elaborate on his claims.

The lawsuit also complains about delivery vehicles visiting the market “day and night” that create noise and disruption – a complaint that baffles Shepherd.

“If I don’t have delivery trucks, I can’t open the store,” he said.

While some neighbors are suing the market, others are leaping to defend the business on social media. Shepherd said his phone was ringing all day Friday with messages of support and offers to help, including one woman who wants to start a Go Fund Me page to raise money for his legal fees.

“We have had an outpouring of support that’s phenomenal,” he said.

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