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FREE WHEELING: Promoters, but not at the Treehouse.
  • FREE WHEELING: Promoters, but not at the Treehouse.

Treehouse felled

But music won’t be, promoter says.

The Treehouse, the one-story frame house at 109 S. Cedar where three roommates have been hosting live music for the past six months and which the Arkansas Times featured in last week’s issue on spring performing arts, was shut down by police just after midnight Tuesday, March 13, for not having a business license.

The police, who’d issued a citation for disorderly conduct to Treehouse resident Dan Allen on Sunday, arrived at a break between performances early Tuesday morning. After they issued the roommates a warning, the bands — indie pop rockers Matt and Kim, Pony Pants and the Mathematicians — moved to another house across town, and that house was shut down by police Tuesday.

Allen, Casey Jones and Chris Hota, who rent the house, were not making money off the music venue; donations taken up from the young crowds attending the shows went to pay the touring bands for food and travel expenses. No food or drink was sold at the house, Jones said.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter said the house, nevertheless, had “commercial characteristics” — the trio weren’t making a profit, but could have. The enterprise also was in violation of the R-3 zoning code, which doesn’t allow indoor music studios or entertainment.

In a development late Monday, operators of the Easy Street Piano Bar and Cabaret, at Seventh and Center streets downtown, told the Treehouse contingent that they could hold their already scheduled shows in their venue. The Treehouse had lined up several touring acts to stop in during the next week.

The Treehouse operated with little protest from neighbors — the Economy Inn at Cedar and Markham on the north, an office of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on the south and Burger King, which allowed the house — a late-night venue — to use its parking lot, on the west.

On Tuesday night, two plainclothes officers and four uniformed officers closed down the second venue, at 3824 W. Capitol Ave., for making noise in a residential neighborhood after midnight and on suspicion of underage drinking. No citation was issued, and no report was filed on the incident.

The Capitol house held shows again on Wednesday night, but no officers showed up.

Jones, 24, has booked and promoted so-called “pirate” house shows, shows in park pavilions and skate parks since he was 15. He said Central Arkansas is a “social hole” without the shows, which target a young audience focused on music rather than socializing.

“A bar’s just not the best place to hear music — I’m finding that out and a lot of bands are, too,” Jones said. “You can see it on the bands’ faces: ‘Is anyone even paying attention to us?’ And that’s really sad.”

So though the Treehouse is closed, Jones won’t give up finding ways for bands to play in non-traditional venues. The shows will go on, he said, “anywhere there’s a plug-in.”

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