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Musicians, Condo Associations Want Compromise On Noise Ordinance

Musicians, business owners request flexibility for allowing live music downtown on weekends.

Downtown Sarasota is stuck between some rock 'n' roll and a hard place.

"You go downtown now at eleven o'clock now, and it looks like a retirement village," musician Steve McAllister said.  "… We don't want to go to bed at ten o'clock."

Those in attendance during a hearing Wednesday Night inside the City Hall Annex felt that the city's sound ordinance needs to embrace a thriving a downtown music scene with reasonable expectations and not to become the Elmore City, Oklahoma, of live music.

The crowd, predominately a younger faced audience for Sarasota standards in their twenties and forties, spoke for more than two hours at the workshop and the consensus from the crowd who favored altering the ordinance included:

  • Have a sound ordinance that supports live music on the weekends in certain geographic locations
  • Eliminate anonymous complaints
  • Measure the sound from the location of the complaint and not from the source
  • Increase the decibel limit
  • Increase hours of live music allowed on Friday and Saturday nights

Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, who conducted the hearing, said he is committed to staying on the issue and being in contact with those who spoke at the hearing.

"I'm going to take all of these things, calling some of you individually, and the thing to do is to take it through an organization like the [Downtown Sarasota Alliance] and work with the condo association," he said. "I don't have an idea in my head of what they would look like."

The city's downtown core sound ordinance regulates outdoor amplified sound (i.e. music) by banning it between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays and between 11:59 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday nights and nights before a federal holiday. Mattison's City Grille, which leases space on a city-owned property on Lemon Avenue, is exempted.

When the band plays, The city's downtown core sound ordinance regulates outdoor amplified sound (i.e. music) by banning it between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and between 11:59 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday nights and nights before a federal holiday. 

When the band plays, it has to be lower than 65 dBA, 70 dBC, and then it gets complicated when it deals with duration, proximity to residences and other measures.

Caragiulo demonstrated how loud that is by playing a clip of music that appears on the city's television programs, with folks agreeing that it sounded like watching a TV program and not attending a concert at your local watering hole. 

Those at the hearing shared that what's not fair is the sound meter is measured at the source of the sound and not from where the complaint originated. Complaints are anonymous for now, and one business owner suspected that competing bars and clubs are calling in complaints.

In a city of 52,341 permanent residents, there were only 262 noise complaints citywide and 29 citations in 2011. Or for the downtown zone, 20 complaints and 2 citations in 2011. However, those are for any type of noise complaint, which could include loud arguments between your neighbors. Data of separating the music-specific complaints were not available.

So far in 2012, no citations have been issued for noise, no complaints have been lodged downtown either while citywide, 155 complaints were filed, according to the Sarasota Police Department.

Floribbean Restaurant and Lounge owner Rafael Perez questioned the accuracy of the noise complaint citations in 2012 provided from SPD.

He said he has been cited four times this year, one case was dismissed, he said, another he served 12 hours of community service at the Salvation Army for the violation.

Court records show that Perez was cited for a noise ordinance violation in February, and was cited in June 2011 for noise, but the case was dismissed in December 2011.

Captain Waye Genthner had data from SPD that showed five sound complaints from January through July this year, with four complaints on the 1400 block of Main Street, which would be the address of Floribbean.

Genthner, who runs Wolfmouth Fishing Charters and is a member of Visit Sarasota County, said visitors aren't sure what there is to do at night in Sarasota.

"We love the fishing, we love what it looks like, we love the people, but what the hell are we going to do after nine o'clock at night?," Genthner says his clients express. "… I have to give them a really, really good fishing trip to make up for it."

Genthner had also broached the idea of having either codified entertainment zones in the city like Orlando with shorter hours or like in Raleigh where there are distinct districts that also have circulator buses to transport people from place to place during the late night every 20 minutes.

HuB business incubator founder Rich Swier Jr. keyed on the economic issue.

"This is about creating an economy that allows for a vibrant nightlife that draws younger professionals, diversifies our economy and also allows our businesses to survive, especially those that depend on the nightlife," he said.

Several who spoke were supportive of some form of a district that encourages live music and is less restrictive than the current regulations for the rest of the city, but Planning Board Chairman Mort Siegel offered some cautionary tales.

Siegal is an attorney who represents Hard Rock Cafe, performed regulatory work for Playboy clubs and numerous other restaurant and nightclub entities for residential/business conflicts. But he has also was active with the Savoy on Palm Condominium Association and helped form the Coalition of Bayfront Citizens condo association.

"If the folks who have testified here are advocating that every area in downtown Sarasota should be able to have nighttime entertainment with sound, you will never see it happen," Siegal said. "It has never happened anywhere in the United States. 

Instead, Siegal said, the city needs to decide if it wants entertainment-specific areas with regulations would be a good concept, but it can't just lump the entire downtown.

"Loud sound is going to lose if it competes with people's way of living," he said.

Anthony Paull, an activist journalist with ThisWeekInSarasota, has continued to push for a conversation on the restrictive sound ordinance, said that downtown is dying with limited shopping and a downtown Starbucks that closes at 9 p.m.

"The only thing we see after 9 p.m. is street people, and after 9 p.m., it is not a 'safe city,'" he said. But if there were more music, there would be more people on the street creating a feeling of security in numbers in a bustling city, but not to turn up the dial so much that a Saturday night in Sarasota resembles a romp through Ybor City.

Peter Fanning of the Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association represents about 4,000 downtown residents and said that those residents do want a vibrant Main Street.

"We want youth to come downtown. We would like to see housing that accommodate youth downtown, but we also need to recognize that many people in our association bought in residential areas expecting it to be like residential areas," he said.

Fanning also added he is encouraged of the talk of compromise this time around.

"I think with compromise and good discussion … I think we can arrive at a compromise situation that ameliorates the sound problems that would go into the residential neighborhood area while we encourage the vibrancy that we see entertainment brings to the downtown of Sarasota," Fanning added.

Several speakers during the hearing said that if the condominiums are having so many issues with noise, it's probably a building issue where the architect or contractor didn't sufficiently provide sound dampening walls and windows for a downtown property.

Bryan Hadley, social media and outreach coordinator for Players Theatre, suggested that city should provide incentives or credits to downtown residences who install sound buffering into their design since businesses are encouraged to do the same.

Hadley added that ultimately, the folks moving in the core of a city had to have some realistic expectations of the sounds of city streets.

"They had a choice," he said. "They didn't have to move to downtown. They could have lived in Palmer Ranch or Lakewood Ranch."

What's your plan for allowing live music downtown? Tell us in the comments

John Garvey October 18, 2012 at 02:02 PM
I live downtown and noise can be a problem..........BUT.....it's DOWNTOWN! I made the choice to live where there is noise, where noise should be expected. I also want a vibrant, more youthful downtown. Make the compromise and support all of downtown Sarasota!
Robert Mullen October 18, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I would suggest (1) grandfathering existing venues at one negotiable SPL (sound pressure level) level, and (2)create zones in the city for new venues where a higher db level will be tolerated. All db levels for both approaches should be zoned to radiate out from each venue with a max SPL - measured at a predefined distance from the venue radiating the SPL. By using both approaches, entertainment districts could be established that offer transport between the venues in the district as well as ready taxi services to help reduce DUI occurances.
Hawkeye October 19, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Would someone 'please' respond to this sick post, form an even sicker person...please. My stomach is just too sick to even respond.. If this sick person presents this city, then it's a sad day in Sarasota.. referring to Siesta music patrons as 'raunchy'.. and wishes to keep downtown 'elegant'.. how so very sick minded.. Plase respond to her post someone.. please.. Reta Saffo 12:04 pm on Thursday, October 18, 2012 Reta Saffo posted: "I, too, would like to see downtown augmented with a little live music in a few places. It could be great for everyone. The problem is we fear it might turn into another Siesta Key Village with a rather raunchy crowd of folks hanging out down here. How would you go about preventing that? That's the real question! They can have Siesta Key Village (it is what it is), but lets try to keep downtown relatively nice and somewhat 'upscale'. Elegance and good manners never go out of style!
Catherine Hathaway October 20, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Dear Reta, I'm responding for Hawkeye, he feels sick. Mic Jagger admitted that rock music is "TRASH" and with trash comes the garbage.Its not right to impose your music on others because what sounds like music to you ,sounds like noise to someone else...I don't care what kind of music it is. Sarasota should remain classy and elegant...it's what it is famous for. Hawkeye sounds like you have raging hormones and you sound selfish and self- centered..it's probably why you feel sick.Feel better soon and grow up.
Hawkeye October 20, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Catherine, before Mattisons was where it stands now, there was an incredible music venue.. people from all over came to hear the 'live' music. Then the elderly came and soon condoere built all around downtown Sarasota. Music of any kind after 8:00 pm annoyed them to the point they contacted their commissioners blatantly stating they pay more taxes than anyone else, therefore the commissioners should listen to 'them' and play a deaf ear to the patrons who came to sarasota to ave music. Thus came the noise ordinance. Look what happened to the Casey key fish-house.. a Florida 'original' which are rare these days. People had a fit because he played Jimmy Buffet music at 10:00 pm. So they filed a complaint and shut him down for two years. If you read Reta's post, you will see she referred to the 'patrons' and not the music as a raunchy crowd.
Hawkeye October 20, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Catherine: So, people whlisten to reggae at the beach club are 'raunchy'. Had you 'read' her post Catherine, you would have seen what she was referring to.. she wants 'elegance' downtown and not a raunchy crowd that listens to bob marley. Cahterine, muisic of any type can coexist downtown. You can have reggae at Mattisons and still retain the 'charm' of sarasota.Sarasota, downtown has never been classified as being an elegant only crowd, but people from all walks of life inhabit it's streets and should. But you refer me as selfish and self centered and for me to grow up and that I have raging hormones, just because I like to see all types of music downtown and I feel they can coexist? What is that all about. If you read the 'tone' and 'verbiage' of Reta's post, you can tell she doesn't want men wearign flip-flops down, rather she'd prefer Gucci handbag clad women. You get my message and by the way, it was her post, not mine. Regarding culture diversity, it appears you could truly use some lessons in Culture diversity. I highly recommend a truly wonderful book on the subject titled: "Pax Ethnica" . Also Catherine, again regarding my post in responceto you commenting for Reta because apparently, she's the type who makes a post then hides; So, people whlisten to reggae at the beach club are 'raunchy'.
Hawkeye October 20, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Catherine; Had you 'read' her post Catherine, you would have seen what she was referring to.. she wants 'elegance' downtown and not a raunchy crowd that listens to bob marley. Cahterine, muisic of any type can coexist downtown. You can have reggae at Mattisons and still retain the 'charm' of sarasota.Sarasota, downtown has never been classified as being an elegant only crowd, but people from all walks of life inhabit it's streets and should. But you refer me as selfish and self centered and for me to grow up and that I have raging hormones, just because I like to see all types of music downtown and I feel they can coexist? What is that all about. If you read the 'tone' and 'verbiage' of Reta's post, you can tell she doesn't want men wearign flip-flops down, rather she'd prefer Gucci handbag clad women. You get my message and by the way, it was her post, not mine. Regarding culture diversity, it appears you could truly use some lessons in Culture diversity. I highly recommend a truly wonderful book on the subject titled: "Pax Ethnica" .
Hawkeye October 20, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Catherine, perhaps you're a wound up repressed republican.. know what I mean... and perhaps a lack of.... well, you know what republicans don't like.... right?
Hawkeye October 20, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Catherine, I highly recommend a nice frozen margarita at the Daquiri Deck, kick off your heels, don a pair of flip-fopls and let your hair down... you may just find yourself enjoying yourself and having a good time. Better yet, go on Thursday night, to the upstairs bar at Eat Here, listen to someTwinkle and have a nice White Belgium IPA.. you would truly enjoy it.
Hawkeye October 23, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Reta, no, I was not implying that 'you' were a repressed republican, but rather Catherine. (And she truly needs to get out more, perhaps at the Beach Club or Gilligans on Sunday's when they have their live reggae, pop open a Corona with lime.. she just may enjoy herself. But honestly Reta, you can have the crowds from Siesta mix with the partons on Main St. They can co-exist. Bot all the music patrons on Siesta are a bunch of bikini clad women wearing flip-flops.. it's just because they have nowhere else to go, due to the crying of the residents who occupy Central Park Condos. Reta, it's people with money who are placing the culture diversity we have here in Sarasota in jealordy. It's not the fact there wasn't any 'room' for the food truck, it's because she was pressured by the same person who owns 'all three' establishments; The Hub, The Cottage and the Blue 'Q'...
Hawkeye October 23, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Reta, have you ever purchased anything from a food truck vendor? The food is really good and authentic. My point is Reta, the powers that be, want to turn Sarasota into another Naples.. do we want that.. to live in a community that caters only to the elderly and not all citizens? Perhaps Reta, it's because I came from a city which was a melting pot of all cultures, citizens of all ages.. and you know what, we all got along and accepted each other for what we were, and not by what we drove, or what we wore. But say, I truly appreciate our at least talking about the subject at hand, like mature adults, rather than Catherines snide, immature, repressed remarks. I truly wish you the best and hope you have a great winter. :) By the way Reta... Peace! Take for instance the recent decision by Commissioner Patterson, but not letting food truck vendors on Siesta.
Hawkeye October 23, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Reta, have you ever purchased anything from a food truck vendor? The food is really good and authentic. My point is Reta, the powers that be, want to turn Sarasota into another Naples.. do we want that.. to live in a community that caters only to the elderly and not all citizens? Perhaps Reta, it's because I came from a city which was a melting pot of all cultures, citizens of all ages.. and you know what, we all got along and accepted each other for what we were, and not by what we drove, or what we wore. But say, I truly appreciate our at least talking about the subject at hand, like mature adults, rather than Catherines snide, immature, repressed remarks. I truly wish you the best and hope you have a great winter. :) By the way Reta... Peace!
Tom Fusco March 05, 2013 at 02:39 PM
The City Fathers of Sarasota never seem to learn their lesson when it comes to imposing unconstitutional rules and regulations on amplified sound. Keep it up. The ACLU needs to "keep its teeth sharp" and can use another $50,000 settlement!

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