A proposed entertainment district downtown would allow restaurants and cafés to play outdoor music a little louder and later.
City Commissioner Paul 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 (see map).
Caragiulo said current regulations are ambiguous and prohibit most sounds downtown, and that a vibrant downtown should include some sidewalk cafés with music.
According to Caragiulo, it makes sense to set aside an area downtown with specific noise rules — instead of applying an outlying neighborhood rule to the more active downtown area.
A handful of residents spoke out against the measure at the Downtown Improvement District meeting Tuesday, Dec. 11, after Caragiulo made a presentation on the concept.
“I live in 50 Central, and I don’t want to live in an entertainment zone,” said David Eckel.
Other downtown condo residents said they wouldn’t mind seeing more shops and restaurants, but are not in agreement of a block of late-night establishments.
Faye Beloff lives in a condo unit above Club Ivory. She spoke of an early-morning noise incident in November.
“I was awakened by boom, boom, boom from a DJ at Ivory,” Beloff said. “Police didn’t do anything. They walked in and said, ‘Lower the music.’”
If the proposed entertainment district moves ahead, the rules need to be enforced, Beloff said.
Under the current noise ordinance, if police respond to a complaint and someone at the loud-music source turns down the volume, no summons is issued, said Sarasota Capt. Paul Sutton.
“That is the way the ordinance is written,” Sutton said.
John Vetri, property manager at Five Points, also talked about Club Ivory.
He said there were fewer problems with the low-key restaurant that was there before the nightclub occupied that space.
“We were talking light jazz, and now we have a full-blown club there,” Vetri said.
Vetri said he would like to see any conversations about noise proposals or entertainment district involve downtown residents.
From January to Dec. 11, there were 204 noise complaints throughout the city; two summonses were issued downtown, both at 1400 Main St.
Ron Rayevich, a resident at The Plaza at Five Points, said downtown needs a vibrant retail climate, not live-music venues that are closed all day when other shops and cafés are open on Main Street.
“The question is whether an entertainment zone will become a new Bourbon Street or a new Ybor City,” Rayevich said.
“No one whom I am aware of wants to make this Bourbon Street or Ybor,” said Caragiulo.
Peter Fanning, president of the Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association, worked with Caragiulo on the proposal. Fanning said the city’s current noise ordinance is confusing, and the purpose of an entertainment district is not to create a “club-row atmosphere.”
“Is this a place with strip joints? No, that is not what anyone who is responsible for what happens downtown wants,” Fanning said.
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