Archive for Wednesday, March 9, 1994

ROCK COULD STOP AT OUTHOUSE

March 9, 1994

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The new operator of a popular concert site hopes to please neighbors by remodeling the building and creating a more subdued environment.

From gangsta rap to the chicken dance, the hard-core image of The Outhouse will soon soften.

Wedding and social club parties will replace punk rock at the cinderblock building east of town if a young entrepeneur's attempt at a new business succeeds.

The likelihood of county officials shutting down the building -- what some see as a nuisance in a rural setting -- is slim according to zoning laws.

F.J. Rost, a Kansas University student and self-described "small-fry" businessman, will spend the summer remodeling The Outhouse, which is four miles east of Massachusetts Street. Starting around August, he plans to lease the space to wedding parties, KU clubs and other social groups.

"We want to secure the building first off," he said. "Remodel it and improve it, knock out the stage, put in some benches and booths, a dance floor and a DJ booth."

After years of noise and traffic, neighbors cast a wary eye toward any activity at the Outhouse. The country shouldn't be a haven for night parties, they say.

"If the guy approaches me, I'd definitely like to talk to him," said Karen Pendleton, whose farm is south of the building. "That's always been the problem. There's been no one to talk to."

Rost said he would contact neighbors soon. Renting the place to groups with access to buses and installing a pay phone at the building are two ways he hopes to please the neighbors. He stressed that no more bands would plug in there.

For years, The Outhouse has been a venue known for its high energy concerts -- drawing an audience primarily of young people, those not old enough to get into Lawrence nightclubs but who enjoy a brand of hard-edged live music.

Featured bands in the past hold proud places in the vinyl collections of many young rockers. The better known include rapper Ice-T, White Zombie and The Rollins Band featuring Henry Rollins -- former frontman for one of the early Los Angeles punk bands, Black Flag. A promoter from Kansas City, Mo., said the number of bands who know about the place was surprising.

Wayne Kellum, the county's zoning director, said he remembers hanging out there when he was in his teens. He also remembers when it was an upholstery shop.

It has been there at least since 1966, when the county formally zoned the area agricultural, making the commercial building a "non-conforming use," he said.

As long as it remains a rental space for private parties, Kellum said, the county will not be able to review the zoning, because the use has not changed.

"If they change it to a beer bar, (for example), not only would they have to get approval from the county commission on non-conforming use, but they would also have to get a beer license," he said.

A review by the commission might not prove favorable, even for Outhouse-lite.

Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell said Tuesday that he would like to see the building permanently silenced.

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