Although complaints about noise still are being filed with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the situation in the Village has calmed down since early November, Sgt. Scott Osborne, the leader of the Village’s Community Policing Station, said this week.
Still, the Siesta Key Oyster Bar received a citation Nov. 23 for music that was too loud during the Village’s Turkey Trot, Osborne said.
The annual event, held the night before Thanksgiving, generally draws a large crowd, Osborne said, but the Turkey Trot last week “was one of the busier ones they’ve ever had. There were a lot of people … more than I’ve ever seen out here.”
The county fire marshal was checking all the Village bars and restaurants, Osborne added, to make sure no place exceeded its occupancy level. At one point, Osborne said, he believed most of the establishments had as many people packed into them as the fire code allowed.
The deputies were unable to estimate the total number of people in the Village, he said.
Despite the fact that other businesses point to SKOB as a perennial violator of the county’s noise ordinance, Osborne said the restaurant staff works hard to comply.
“I don’t think they’ve been letting things get out of hand,” he said. “Their decibel level is normally not that high.”
However, SKOB did get a warning about two weeks ago, he said, for exceeding the noise level. If a business that has been warned violates the noise ordinance a second time within 90 days, Osborne said, it receives a $250 citation. Any subsequent citation results in a $500 fine, he added.
On Turkey Trot night, Osborne said, the restaurant was “way above the (decibel) limit.”
Officers checked all the other bars and restaurants in the Village, he said, and every other establishment was in compliance.
Yet, with so many college students home for the holiday and partying in the Village, Osborne said, he suspected the band at SKOB simply was trying to be heard above the noise.
“That is a big night … yet we were called out on it,” said Beth Owen-Cipielewski, co-owner of SKOB.
She agreed with Osborne about the number of people participating in Turkey Trot.
“The college kids are home,” she said. “They need somewhere to go (for entertainment).”
The biggest problem is the ambient noise, Owen-Cipielewski said.
“We’re doing what we can,” she said. “SKOB stays out of trouble.”
Owen-Cipielewski was especially frustrated about the complaints, she said, because Siesta Key provides about 35% of the county’s annual tourist development tax revenue.
“We’re deeply disappointed that whether it’s neighbors or residents or other businesses (calling the Sheriff’s Office), (complaints are lodged against the restaurant),” she said. “I wish we’d get more support from the county. We’re the No. 1 beach; why can’t we all just be happy?”
A short distance down Ocean Boulevard from SKOB, Rami Nehme, the new owner of Blasé Café, said last week he also had been frustrated by the noise complaints in the Village. When a complaint was lodged against his restaurant in late October, he said, he was not on the premises that night.
However, Nehme said, the band at the restaurant played just seven minutes past the 10 p.m. deadline for the sound level to go down, so the band could finish its set.
“All of a sudden three deputy cars are parked in my parking lot,” he said.
Other complaints have brought more deputies to Blasé Café, he said, when bands were not playing.
“It gets kind of annoying,” Nehme said. “(The complaints) kind of put me on the spot. I really don’t have live music except on Friday and Saturday, (and the musician usually is a guitarist with no speaker equipment).”
One recent complaint lodged against Blasé Café, Osborne said, had resulted from the music level at SKOB.
“I’m just trying to serve good gourmet dinners,” Nehme said. “There are two sides to every story.”
Nehme said he also had asked a deputy for a clarification about the time, dictated by the noise ordinance, when loud music has to subside. Nehme later sent the Pelican Press an email provided to him by the Sheriff’s Office, citing the appropriate section from the noise ordinance. After 10 p.m., the ordinance says, indoor and outdoor entertainment can continue only if a business has a special exception.
Noise meter detects violations
An anonymous caller lodged a complaint at 11 p.m. Nov. 11, telling the Sheriff’s Office he had detected loud music from either Gilligan’s or the Daiquiri Deck.
The responding deputy wrote that he stood in the middle of Ocean Boulevard between the two businesses and determined the majority of the noise was coming from the Daiquiri Deck.
The deputy calibrated his noise meter and took a reading, which showed 79.5 decibels at 11:45 p.m. He recalibrated the meter and stood on the curb directly in front of Daiquiri Deck. His next reading was 78.8 decibels at 12:07 a.m. Nov. 12. After 11 p.m., the maximum decibel level allowed is 70, he noted in his report.
The deputy printed the reading, spoke to the manager of the Daiquiri Deck and warned him about the music. “(The manager) apologized and took immediate measures to turn the music down,” the deputy wrote.