New noise rules could end some outdoor music at bars, restaurants

New noise rules could end some outdoor music at bars, restaurants

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by BETH SHAYNE / NewsChannel 36

WCNC.com

Posted on February 17, 2011 at 9:23 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 17 at 12:39 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Charlotte City Council committee is considering changes to the city's noise ordinance that would turn the volume way down at bars in residential areas.

The proposed changes are a response to years of complaints from neighbors, particularly in the Elizabeth and Dilworth areas where there are several watering holes near homes.

"It literally shakes the windows in peoples home across the street, keeps them awake, keeps their kids awake," complained Worth Madry, who's lived in the Elizabeth neighborhood for years.

He's especially pointing fingers at The Philosopher's Stone on Caswell Street in Elizabeth. The bar is known for live music on its large patio. It sponsors an all-day outdoor concert each May known as Stone Fest.  "Lot of restaurants have music outside," Madry said. "That’s fine, but you don’t want to play music so you can hear it two blocks away."

The Philosopher's Stone's co-owner Josh Settle bristles at  both the complaint and the changes proposed. "We’ve worked with the police. I got my own decibel meter, and we got in compliance," he said. "We’re actually within the law but they don’t like where the law is at."

The ordinance, as written, would prohibit any amplified music at establishments within 400 feet of areas zoned "residential." That means it would effect bars primarily in the neighborhoods surrounding Uptown, including Elizabeth, Dilworth, Plaza Midwood, and NoDa.

Settle says it would mean he and other bar owners can't use speakers on the patio that play ambient music from the jukebox or radio, or allow bands to perform with speakers outside.

Mike Plumley, who plays in a string band called The Pickers that performs weekly at The Philosopher's Stone, says that limitation will mean customers this summer won't hear his music over traffic noise. "We’re not out here to be Metallica but we need some amplification with our music," he complained.

Settle plans to work with other bar owners and musicians to fight the changes. The city's community safety committee will hear public comment March 21.

The measure is being followed particularly closely by councilwoman Patsy Kinsey who lives just behind Caswell Ave. in Elizabeth. She says its an issue she's heard complaints about for years, and has worked with city staff on an ordinance that balances the neighbors concerns for a long time.

Other changes proposed set new permit requirements for large music venues like the Verizon Amphitheater and the NC Music Factory, and change regulations Uptown to allow the city to designate certain establishments as chronic noise producers. City attorney Mac McCarley says he hopes those changes will help protect people staying in hotels Uptown, with the goal of striking a balance between businesses and people nearby.

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