Sorry, Charlie: New Noise Curfew
Ongoing disagreements with nearby residents yield stricter curfews
Last Tuesday, Aug. 14, members of the Austin Music Commission met with a local neighborhood organization and the owners of East Sixth bar and venue Cheer Up Charlie's – in part to mediate the ongoing complaints against the East Sixth Street club from surrounding residents, but also to discuss CUC's sound permit renewal. The eventual resolution restricts CUC's outdoor amplified noise (all sound that is played through speakers, including live music, programmed music, etc.) to 10am-8pm on Sunday through Thursday, and 10am-10pm on Friday and Saturday.
John Plyler lives 455 feet from CUC and is the voice of his neighborhood organization, which has frequently complained about the music coming from CUC. If Cheer Up Charlie's "would abide by the codes, then we wouldn't be in this situation to begin with," he says. "It's not a decibel level; it's a curfew thing. Cut and dry."
Last August, when CUC owner Tamara Hoover applied for permit renewal, she received city orders to confine amplified sound to 11:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. At the recommendation of the city's Music Office, she had previously installed a band shell to keep the music away from the surrounding neighbors.
According to the new permit, the Music Office agrees that the band shell "has proven very effective." On Aug. 11, the Music Office monitored the sound from CUC and confirmed "that the venue no longer creates a substantial sound impact to their neighbors." But Plyler says the sound buffers work only some of the time and for some directions, depending on the wind. "Tamara has said she wants us to be good neighbors," he says. "All we ask is that she follow the curfews, but she continues to break them."
Hoover's partner, Maggie Lea, says they don't break the rules when it comes to live music. "We've never had a live band play past curfew. We have DJs or programmed music outside, but it's easy to control the volume. This is not about sound."
According to the language of the permit, the areas around CUC are residential zoned as Single Family (SF-3), and under last year's ordinance changes, the city may issue sound restrictions for a property within 600 feet of a residential zone.
There is a provision in the permit that allows for extended sound hours (until 10pm weeknights and 11:30pm weekends) if a business can come to an agreement with its neighbors. However, since CUC and its neighbors cannot come to an agreement, the restricted hours have been issued and the new permit is in effect. Currently, the only options CUC have are in community engagement and appeal processes.
Don Pitts, the city's music program manager, says that people can contact City Council and the Music Commission to voice their concerns. He also emphasizes that the permit renewal is not an attack on CUC, but rather an enforcement of code that was changed last year by City Council. The next meeting of the Music Commission is Oct. 1.