Culture News

Conspire Losing Its Backyard Skate Ramp in Wake of Recent Lawsuit

There was some serious trickage taking place on the skate ramp behind Downtown's Conspire this past weekend as teenaged riders spent Saturday afternoon an evening unleashing ollies and grinds all over the structure while punk anthems played over a P.A.

Sadly, it's probably last time the ramp will ever get used.

Earlier this month, Martin Lieberman, owner of the Fifth Street residence housing Conspire, ordered its removal due to liability concerns cited by his insurance company. The situation is the result of a recent negligence lawsuit filed against Lieberman, the vegan restaurant/gallery, and Artlink by a local man who was allegedly attacked by a dog on the property during December's First Friday.

And while the lawsuit is currently being contested by Lieberman, the folks at Conspire says that the loss of the skate ramp isn't the only change that might happen because of the lawsuit.

According to Maricopa County Superior Court documents, Mesa resident Robert Maida was at Conspire during First Friday in December to help his brother Roger sell artwork outside the venue. Around 8 p.m., Robert went to the back yard where "a dog jumped up and bit him in the face."

Maida reportedly suffered an avulsion, meaning a chunk of his face was torn off, and was transported to a nearby hospital by a fellow artist. Per court records, the dog and its unidentified owner fled the scene.

Maida's lawsuit, which was filed in late January, alleges that the attack took place due Conspire, Lieberman, and Artlink (the non-profit that oversees First Friday) were negligent in allowing the dog on the property, "failing to properly maintain the premesis," and "failing to properly provide [him] with a safe place to conduct business."

A post on Conspire's Facebook page on February 4 stated that Lieberman's insurance company began "checking the space out and deemed the skateramp a hazardous structure."

Nate Burns, who took over as Conspire's manager on January 1, says that while there hasn't been a timetable set for the removal of the ramp, which was built last November to host skating events.

"Either its going to disappear in the blink of an eye because the landlord will take it down or preferably it will be removed to another location by members of the Conspire community and the people who put it together," he says. "Hopefully we can salvage it before it disappears."

Burns says that while Lieberman and insurance adjusters company didn't have any issues with Conspire's outdoor stage, which regularly hosts live music and other performances.

"We're trying to avoid that at all costs," he says. "Nobody's said that its has to come down and nobody's questioned it yet. The concerned parties are not concerned with that, they are concerned with the skate ramp," he says.

He's also considering erecting a fence around the backyard area, which could also help the venue's bottom line.

"My intent is to put up a fence, but that is more about the viability of the business," he says. "I do want to offer free shows, but I think there's a lot more flexibility when you have a fence. You could charge for a show, you could get a larger act, you could pay a band anything instead of getting them to play for free. Its not that you couldn't hear or see the music, but it's about the experience of going inside. The fence would also minimize the noise."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.