BANGOR, Maine — City leaders next week will take up discussion of an ordinance amendment designed to put more onus on nightclub owners to limit excessive noise both inside and outside their establishments.
The change would add a provision to Chapter 194 of the city’s code that reads: “Owners of a nightclub, dance hall or disco have an obligation to prevent their patrons on their property from causing noise which causes discomfit or annoyance to a reasonable person residing in the vicinity of the nightclub, dance hall or disco.”
Another clause would be added to the same ordinance that clarifies that business owners are responsible for noise created by its patrons not just inside but “on the owner’s property.”
Councilor Richard Stone, who has been vocal about addressing city noise concerns for some time, said the goal is to create a compromise between business owners and a growing number of downtown residents.
“It may seem extreme to some people, but this was an area that I felt we had to do something,” Stone said Friday. “Residents and businesses need to coexist.”
Scott Huntley, who owns Benjamin’s, a nightclub on Franklin Street downtown, has had issues with the city in the past regarding noise complaints. He said he’s happy to limit noise that originates inside his club but he also said it’s absolutely not his responsibility once those patrons leave.
“I don’t own the sidewalk,” Huntley said.
John Dobbs, owner of Paddy Murphy’s on Main Street, agreed that policing the sidewalk is not and should not be the responsibility of business employees.
“But, I haven’t been approached by the city about any noise issues,” he said. “Knock on wood.”
The proposed amendment change was not prompted by any specific complaints, but rather continuing issues associated with downtown noise, City Manager Ed Barrett said Friday.
“I imagine there will be considerable debate about whether we can ask [businesses] to control noise that tends to flow out of extending areas,” he said.
Members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will discuss the ordinance change at a meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, at City Hall. Any recommendation would go to the full City Council the next Monday.
Interestingly enough, the Bangor Planning Board at 7 p.m. Tuesday will discuss two additional ordinance changes that specifically address nightclubs.
One would redefine a nightclub under the city’s land development code to be any establishment that houses 80 or more patrons. The previous threshold was 300.
The other item proposes several minor ordinance amendments that govern Bangor’s downtown development district in an attempt to “strike a balance between the needs of the eating and drinking establishments located in the downtown and the residents.” More specifically, the city is seeking to impose conditional uses on cer-tain establishments, to limit hours of operation and eliminate parking requirements within the downtown district.
“The [city] planning staff is supporting the changes,” Barrett said. “I think those are reasonable and give us more control over applications for uses in those particular zones.”
If approved by the planning board, the changes also would require full council approval.
City councilors and staff have had a lengthy history of clashes involving downtown residents and business owners over noise complaints in recent years. Stone doesn’t think that most establishments have persistent problems, but he said the ones that do need to be held accountable.
Business owners mostly agree but they worried about the city becoming too restrictive.
“People like us provide a service that the community is screaming out for,” Huntley said. “I would think the city wants our business.”