Dozens of supporters and opponents of a proposed entertainment district downtown spoke at a community workshop Wednesday night. The meeting lasted two-and-a-half hours as business owners and residents weighed in on the debate over whether to have an entertainment district where music can be played louder and later.
Downtown resident Eric Sobel said he is in favor of growth downtown, but a significant change to sound regulations could change the way residents and tourists view the city.
“We just have to be careful not to destroy the brand of Sarasota,” Sobel said.
One aspect of the proposal would increase decibels from 75 to 85 decibels.
Chris Young, a resident who works to help promote local musicals, was one of the proponents who said its time for a change to the noise ordinance downtown.
“I came from Chicago. We don’t have this problem,” Young said. “No one complains about this. It is a city. What we are asking for another 10 decibels.”
Frank Brenner moved from Lakewood Ranch to a downtown condo at 100 Central two years ago because he could walk to restaurants and the opera and theaters. But he thinks louder music later at night is a bad idea.
In an interview with the Observer before Wednesday’s meeting, Brenner said he gets upset when proponents of the entertainment district try to compare Sarasota to larger cities.
“This tiny hamlet will become a honky tonk,” Brenner said. “This downtown will become unlivable.”
Earlier this month, Peter Fanning, president of the Downtown Sarasota Condo Association (DSCA), worked with City Commissioner Caragiulo on a concept that would allow restaurants and cafes in an entertainment district to play outdoor music a little louder and later.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Fanning suggested that the differences between the two groups either for or against the concept would not be worked out in such meetings, and that a workshop-type charrette was needed to plan a concept that both side could agree to.
“There needs to be a conversation,” Fanning said.
A proposed entertainment district downtown would allow restaurants and cafés to play outdoor music a little louder and later. The debate over the entrainment district has intensified over the past week after City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo made a presentation on the concept at a Downtown Improvement District meeting Dec. 11.
Caragiulo has been spearheading the effort, and although an ordinance has not been drafted, the framework for the entertainment district calls for an increased decibel sound level and an extra hour before nightly noise restrictions go into effect.
The proposed district would stretch more than six downtown blocks from Central Avenue east to U.S. 301, and from Fruitville Road south to State Street.
Towards the end of Wednesday’s meeting Caragiulo played different types of music to show what different decibels sound like.