The owners of a downtown bar and restaurant will add walls, an arbor roof and soundproofing to an outside patio area in an attempt to cut down on noise.
Derrick Lee, an owner of Center Street Social, said he will make the improvements in response to complaints from a neighbor. “This is going to help — that’s for sure,” Lee said.
His plans were approved by the city Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) at the June 9 meeting, but P&Z members warned him there’s no guarantee the upgrades will cut noise enough so that the city’s noise ordinance isn’t an issue in the future.
The establishment is at 127 Center St., and it has become a big success since opening in the summer of 2013. At night, many patrons congregate on the patio while drinking, and an abutting single-family home is located extremely close to Center Street Social’s patio and building.
This led the residential neighbor to complain to the state Liquor Commission, which contacted the P&Z and wants the owners to take action to reduce the noise. The police also have been called due to noise concerns by the neighbor.
Patrons being told to ‘be considerate’
Lee said he has unhooked music speakers that were in the patio and assigned an employee to be on the patio at night to monitor noise activity at all times.
He said other staff members have been told to keep people outside under control, telling them to “be considerate” because “we have neighbors.”
Rick Schultz, city planning and zoning administrator, said the issue involves noise created by having up to 40 people standing in the patio and talking late at night. He said state officials want the problem abated.
“He’s asking for action now because he’s in dire straights,” Schultz said of the Center Streer Social owners, based on the neighbor’s complaint.
Patio stays open late
The patio is open until the establishment closes, which usually is 1 a.m. on weeknights and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It is extremely popular on warm, non-rainy nights.
Lee said the patio is important draw of his establishment, and he doesn’t want to lose it. The arbor — or pergola — roof would allow it to remain open to the elements.
P&Z members said they agree the outdoor patio is an attraction at the bar, but the complainant’s concerns also need to be considered.
“You guys do good business down there but you have to be respectful of the neighbors,” said Ruth Parkins, P&Z chairman.
Parkins said one option would be to require the patio area to be shut down earlier in the evening.
‘I have to do something’
Lee said having to close the patio earlier at night or losing it all together would hurt the business, so he wants to try the walls, arbor roof and soundproofing. “My goal is to keep this contained,” he said.
“I have to do something,” Lee said.
The sound-proofing would be added to the walls (also called “fencing” at times, during the meeting) and roof arbors. Two separate panels would be used to create the walls, and soundproofing acoustic buffers placed between them.
Lee said the soundproofing panels greatly reduced the noise when used at another establishment he owned.
He had actually started putting up the wall panels at Center Street Social but had to take them down because he didn’t have proper zoning approval yet. During that brief period, the walls seemed to be effective, Lee said.
P&Z Alternate Frank Osak suggested the owners test the decibel levels in advance, and then design a solution that would keep the noise level within legal limits.
Osak said this would prevent the owners from doing a lot of expensive work that might not have the desired effect.
“You’re taking a risk,” Parkins told Lee, because if the structure doesn’t keep noise below the allowed limit other enforcement or regulatory action may be required in the future.
“No question it will help,” P&Z member Thomas McGorty said.
Lee said he doesn’t think the noise is out of control now, but Parkins countered that a large group of young people drinking late at night can be very loud.
Some P&Z members said the noise likely fluctuates, depending on the level of conversation at any one time.
Parkins said the P&Z probably would frown upon allowing the patio to be totally closed in, which would essentially enable the owner to increase the building’s square footage on what already is a tight lot.