As the Boothbay Harbor summer season begins, so too does the music season. Many local downtown establishments have live entertainment, which is a huge draw for tourists and some locals as well.
But not everyone is excited that the beat is back.
Many concerned residents came to the May 11 selectmen's meeting where 75 different licenses were up for discussion. Sixty-five were victualers (food licenses), of those, 63 were renewals, and two were new; six were liquor licenses (four renewals, two new); and four were special amusements licenses such as for music and dancing.
Three were renewals for Carousel Music Theater, Red Cup Coffeehouse and Boothbay Lobster Wharf. A new license was also discussed, for the Cod's Head Fish House & BBQ, a new business owned by Ralph Smith opening up at 63 Atlantic Ave. (the former Dockside Grill).
While residents had no issues with either Carousel or the Red Cup, many spoke against allowing Boothbay Lobster Wharf to continue with its license, and several had concerns about the new business, Cod’s Head.
Last August, complaints were brought to the selectmen against both the Wharf and Rocktide Inn, and Board Chairman Denise Griffin urged residents to call the police station to complain when music got overly loud so a record could be kept of complaints.
“If no one complains, we won't know there is a problem,” Griffin said at the August meeting.
Residents said they called and complained last summer as asked, but found the police couldn't help them due to the fact that the BHPD lacks a sound-measuring device.
“Police need to be given the tools to make the determination,” resident Richard Shea said. “The music is extremely loud, when I call to make a complaint they tell me to turn my music down (so they can hear me). That's not (my music), that's the music I'm complaining about.”
“I was also told to turn my radio down when I complained,” Connie Reed said.
According to residents, police have come out to the property and agreed the music was very loud, but without a device to measure it, they couldn't do anything.
“I have complained constantly,” Omer Reed said. “I was told to shut my window.”
According to the town codes, all outdoor amplified music can be played between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. only. Outdoor non-amplified music may continue until 10 p.m. For indoor amplified music, the town codes state “while amplified music is being played (the establishment must keep) its doors and windows closed to prevent, as much as possible, objectionable noise to abutting neighbors and the general public.” At all times outdoor music must not exceed 80 decibels in volume, and between 6 and 9 p.m., the maximum volume drops to 70 decibels.
Resident Dawn Weiss, who owns the Lobster Dock located at 49 Atlantic Avenue with her husband Mitch, spoke up with a solution.
“I have spent more hours than I've wanted to on this,” she said. “I found a noise meter online, it's not very expensive; it will allow the police to enforce the codes we are all supposed to follow.”
Weiss stated that when the music is being played, it is so loud “you can't hear the person sitting at the table across from you.”
The town codes indicate that measurements for noise level must be taken at the abutting property line. Town Manager Tom Woodin pointed out that for establishments on the water, this becomes difficult. Sound also carries over water, as resident Kim Upham pointed out.
“The outside music echoes off the ocean,” Upham said.
The selectmen and town manager asked for the printout Weiss had with her, so they could look into getting the equipment needed.
According to town codes, municipal and police offers have the authority to “reduce the allowable noise level based on, but not limited to, special conditions relating to the neighborhood character, an unanticipated effect on an abutter or the neighborhood, site location such as on a hill, in a valley or over the water, or the date and time of the event.”
Ralph Smith, owner of Cod's Head, was at the meeting and assured residents he wasn't looking to duplicate one of the bars on the west side of the harbor.
“The whole place is like half the size of this room,” Smith said. “We want to focus on the beautiful sunsets over the water, like something out of a Jimmy Buffet song. We'll have soft music, guitars and singing, and we intend to close after sunset.”
Smith stated that he would close by 10 p.m. (the original victualers license form stated he would close at 11 p.m., but was amended). Selectman Bill Hamblen asked if he would be willing to limit his music to a duo or less, which Smith also agreed to.
“I haven't had a chance to talk to all the neighbors yet, but I want to be a good neighbor. If someone has a problem, we'll sit down, have a beer and work it out,” Smith said.
Smith also promised that all music performed outside would not be amplified.
“There are a number of vessels at the dock 50 feet from this place,” resident Norman Pierce said. “They are worth between half a million and a million dollars. I've been here 50 years, I'm willing to give this a try, but the first time there is damage I'm gone.”
Selectman Wendy Wolf suggested that Police Chief Bob Hasch should be contacted so they can get records of noise complaints lodged against local establishments. She motioned that the special amusement license for Boothbay Lobster Wharf should be tabled until the next selectmen's meeting on May 26. The other selectmen agreed and the motion was carried.
The selectmen approved all the other licenses, including all three (victualers, liquor and entertainment) for the Cod's Head Fish House & BBQ.