Sarasota News Leader

03/08/2013

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Sarasota News Leader March 8, 2013 Page 14 ANALYSIS: AD HOC CITY PANEL TO KICK AROUND THE NOISE ORDINANCE By Stan Zimmerman City Editor It is a game with a lot of players, most of whom view the game as zero-sum, win or lose. The game is called "The Noise Ordinance," and it has been played before between residents and business people in downtown Sarasota. again as a new generation wants more life downtown after dark. PREMATURE VICTORY Not one but two sets of regulations about It pits bar owners attracting crowds against noise exist in the city. One is a freestanding lovers of peace and quiet. So far the peace- regulation, the Noise Ordinance. It stipulates and-quiet faction is up 2-0. Right on schedule the times music can be played outdoors and the volume. It is enforced by police armed comes a third round. with decibel meters. "I went through this in 1986 when I had three bars and three bands going every night," said The other regulation is a portion of the city's Ernie Ritz. A quarter-century later, he is still zoning code; it bans amplified music of any in the business, running the Gator Bar at Lem- sort outside. It is enforced by the city's Code on and Main. And he is the chairman of the Compliance Division of the Department of Neighborhood and Development Services. Downtown Improvement District. On Feb. 19, a representative of the Sarasota In the late 1990s, a downtown bar at Lemon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and State called the Lemon Coast became the suggested the city reconsider the amplificacatalyst for today's regulations. The Lemon tion ban. "We believe that is unconstitutional Coast occupied an empty corner lot. A tiki hut on its face," said Michael Barfield. and truckloads of sand turned the vacant lot into a downtown beach bar with everything City Attorney Bob Fournier replied, "The [City] Commission could suspend it right now but the ocean. and take the safe road." The owners liked music, so they set up a stage against an adjacent three-story wall. The mu- The commissioners did — with alacrity — and sic was aimed directly at the emerging high- staff was informed not to cite infractions of rise condos then being sold for serious money. the zoning code. The condo newcomers raised Cain, but the Barfield's comments came after a senior staffLemon Coast refused any proposal of comer had written a Feb. 8 letter to downtown promise. restaurants and bars, saying the city was When the dust cleared, the Lemon Coast was about to begin a push to cite amplified music out of business and the current Noise Ordi- violations. After the suspension, musicians in nance had become the law of the land. Right the audience at the City Commission meeting on schedule 14 years later, the dust is rising cheered the move.

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