By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
In addition to the four guys who live at the Manor, several other people frequently hang out there. They include sculptor Bohner, a scruffy, stout guy with glasses. There's also a petite dancer with a short black bob named Raevyn, her boyfriend Derek, and one of the security guys, Mark, a big guy with a long black braid. Local photographer and rope bondage guru Bio-Argent, who often dresses in lavish suits and smoking jackets, is also a frequent guest.
Despite the wacky, nefarious connotations of calling yourselves The Family (the mafia, The Manson Family, the Family of God alleged sex cult), they say they're really just close, enthusiastic friends who throw outrageous (and sometimes, outrageously profitable) parties.
They decided to name the place Rasputin's Equestrian Manor in honor of Matthew's hero, Siberian "mad monk" and personal consultant for the family of Tsar Nicholas II, who was reportedly poisoned, shot, strangled, and bludgeoned before drowning in the icy Neva river in 1916. "He was well-known for his debauchery, his orgies, his heavy drinking," Matthew says. "He was a famous party animal."
A fleet of cars pulls onto the property at Rasputin's, kicking a cloud of dust in Matthew's face as he ushers them through them gate and onto one of the pasture lots. It's a brisk Saturday night in early October, and he's a shepherd of honking vehicles filled with waving hands.
These people have already gotten past the front gate, where a burly, bearded security guard barks to drive around back and park on the property, not on the street. But first, he has to check IDs to make sure everybody is at least 21.
People pile out of the cars with all kinds of liquor. Somebody's carrying a six-pack of Samuel Adams Octoberfest ale; another clutches a purple Crown Royal bag.
There's also plenty to drink at the "bar," a counter on the patio under a bedroom window. The bartender at the window serves almost everything but gin (a shame, considering gin was a staple of real speakeasies). But somebody here probably brought some.
A handwritten menu on a dry-erase board is next to the bar. At the top, the phrase "$5 Donations" is scribbled and circled. The menu includes canned beer (Miller Lite or Budweiser), mixed drinks, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs. And there's soda and bottled water, for "$3 Donations."
There are probably 50 people here by midnight, and Matthew says he's never seen many of them before. So how did they find the club?
Matthew says they've been advertising on Craigslist and MySpace. For the Halloween shindig, which was the official after-party for the *Sadisco concert with Norwegian industrial artist Combichrist, The Family made fliers, complete with the street address of the Manor and detailed directions. They circulated hundreds of fliers at Chasers in Scottsdale, where *Sadisco was held.
So much for secrecy. Apparently, the location of Rasputin's is supposed to be hush-hush just for the speakeasy pretense. Tap says he's not worried about any legal problems because "we're not doing anything illegal here."
The organizers stress they're not selling liquor at their private events, they're just "accepting donations." But there are a couple of recent cases in Phoenix in which the "donations for liquor" argument didn't fly.
Local hip-hop collective Universatile Music had their UM Gallery in downtown Phoenix raided by police this past June. The gallery owners were serving cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and cups of Charles Shaw wine to First Friday patrons in exchange for a "recommended donation" to help support the gallery. UM promoter Rueben Martinez argued they weren't in violation of state liquor laws because they weren't technically "selling" liquor.
Phoenix police disagreed and cited five of the organizers for selling alcohol without a permit, a class 2 misdemeanor.
If a business sells food, provides entertainment, or charges a membership or cover fee, it must be licensed to serve alcohol, says Lee Hill, communications and special projects director for the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. And licenses can be costly: The current fair market value of a new liquor license for a bar in Maricopa County exceeds $111,000. Licenses must be renewed every year for a $150 state fee, on top of varying city fees — but not just any business can shell out and get a license.
"The primary purpose of the business must be the sale or service of alcohol," Hill says. "It can't be incidental to your business. You can't be a hairdresser and have a liquor license to serve beer. Likewise, you can't get a liquor license to serve wine to people in your gallery while they look at your art."
There is a Special Event license that allows organizations to sell spirits at a single establishment for a temporary period (no longer than 10 days in a calendar year). The license requires applicants to take a Title 4 training course on liquor laws, display a sign within 20 feet of the cash register warning pregnant women of the dangers of consuming alcohol, and keep an employee log on the premises.
Even silver-haired seniors sipping wine and playing Po-Ke-No under a gazebo have to comply with the onerous liquor license laws. In January 2005, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control raided a weekly senior citizens' garden party at a gated community in Mesa. According to an account in the Arizona Republic, organizer Bill Wise said he purchased alcohol for the events with money people put into a donation box and that attendees didn't have to contribute money. He was still cited for selling liquor without a license, because the party was on community property.
This group of guys has gone their separate ways over a disagreement regarding how this situation ended. Those that cared about their relationship with their own community and with the owner of the home contacted the owner and began taking measures to help with repairs and mend relationships. The New Times has also written an article about this taking place, If you search for it you should be able to find it.. This reformed group went on to create The Chateau, also covered by the New Times.
Don't rent to these guys! They TRASHED the place. Holes in the walls, garbage everywhere. TRASHED it. Ripped up carpet and vandalized it. Broke every light bulb there and ripped out the thermostats and really they are just losers.
They need to grow up and take responsibility for their actions.
our paths may have crossed due to the fact that i am researching separete article on the owner of the home in question and did, in fact, conduct a previously scheduled personal interview with the owner at a time right after this article appeared.
needless to say the interview was suspended at that time while the owner made several phone calls to engage this situation to which they were previously unaware. of that there can be no doubt. i was there and i saw the initial reactions and also the subsequent actions. all of which were both swift and legal.
just between you and i - as i conducted the interview (2 hours at one point) the dialog between us was smooth with very few anyone saying 'pardon me' as though they didn't hear or paying attention.
the point is that while this smooth dialog was taking place i was actually watching her computer screen as the owner carried on email conversations always no less than 5 at a time and as many as 7 and always the emails were regarding this incident. i'm actually trying to figure out a way i can work this into the piece i'm doing because i'll tell you - this was 'damage control' live and in color. they are in FRONT of this situation instead of going thru some of the petty excuses we hear in our particular field. in this complete case recently filed legal eviction notices have been issued and served. as for the money that the owner alledgedly went nuts over - this was money that was RENT and RENT that in fact should have already been paid but the owner gave these guys a break and said okay i'll come back for the money later. only to be met with problems.
incidently, it's also my understanding that the original owners are, in fact, after putting these guys out, planning another of the parties that this house has actually become "The" place to be. and a look at the parking lot doesn't show any pick up trucks with gun racks in the back - rather they are mercedes, lexus, and you get the picture fast of the clientele before you open the door.
i think if you ever got around to seeing the 'real deal' and stop at one of the places noted on their website - you'd write an article that would have some of the old facts in it - but the entire piece would be "skewed" 180 degrees into the positive direction.
my best to you and your writing. hope you know this wasn't criticism - just noting two ships passing in the wind.
I enjoyed this article. I though that the author repeated herself a few times about the private/public law distinction, and hinted at it prior to actually explaining the issue, but it was still a good article. The references to other similar instances shows a good background knowledge, and helps round out the article: I was afraid it would be about some private party I couldn't get into, not about a whole cultural phenom and legal issue. Good stuff, keep up the interesting writing New Times!
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Nice article but this whole "house party" thing will come crashing down on the heads of these four guys. Some underage girl will get by their crack security with a fake ID and become the victim of a sexual assault or a rape. Her mommy and daddy will sue, of course. Or some thugs from Mesa or Maryvale will decide that the house is an easy score and try to rob it for the ahem "donations" for food and drink. But more likely, and seriously haven't you people learned by now that running an article like this about an establishment like this is like waving a red flag at the proverbial bull? Does this article accomplish much of anything other than to let the Alcoholic Beverage Commission know that a house like this exists and are probably worth a look see? Perhaps even old Sheriff Joe will pry some of his boys off of "immigration enforcement" to have a look at what occurs at these house parties.
Best of luck to you fellas, sounds like it was a good run and maybe you'll learn from your mistakes when this house gets shut down and you have to move elsewhere.