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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Noise Ordinance Madness - Council Clamps Down Further

Just when you thought the madness of a 10 o'clock curfew for local businesses had reached its peak I experienced a very bizarre council meeting this afternoon.  While council gave local businesses an extra hour Sunday through Thursday and two extra hours to midnight on Friday and Saturday they placed many additional restrictions on local businesses.

The committee meeting began with a draft ordinance entitled "Ordinance Regulating the Placement of Tables, Chairs, and Outdoor Furnishings for the Purpose of Outdoor Dining on the Public Sidewalks and Repealing Ordinance 0-02-2007".

Among the restrictions included in the original draft presented by Don Martin, the City Manager, were:
  • The cost to lease a spot for a table is $10 / year
  • To get a permit business owners must submit a site plan showing the location of the tables
  • No outdoor dining permitted between Nov 16th to March 14th
  • Umbrellas used with the tables can not contain any logos or advertisements
  • Doors can not be propped open
  • Possibly the most egregious of the restrictions was the proposal to prevent smoking on the sidewalk
  • No cooking is permitted outdoors
  • No heaters can be provided
Council ultimately brought Don back to some sense of sanity on the smoking point and a few of the other points but it was not before a very obvious split among council was apparent.  There were two clear camps among council with Eric Haas and Tom Lampe arguing in defense of local businesses.  The two comments from Lisa Kelly appeared to support the business argument but Eric and Tom led the charge.  In support of Don's half-baked ideas was Mayor Mary Brown, Jill Steller, and Jim Doepker.  Roger Peterman was absent.  The contrast between the two camps was stark and frankly made Mary Brown, Don Martin, Jim Doepker, and Jill Steller look completely out of touch with our community.

I honestly have to say I was stunned when I read the first draft.  It is probably the most outrageous attempt to restrict business activity I have ever seen and no real clear reason was presented for the ordinance.  Not a single noise complaint has been filed against Midway businesses for the outdoor seating since it opened on July 4th.  Don Martin indicated multiple times that this wasn't about noise - yet when confronted about the attempt to prevent owners from keeping their doors propped open Don indicated it would prevent the noise from becoming an issue.  Frankly Don's entire logic was very contradictory. 

An officer (whom I assumed was Chief Daly) was asked to provide some input and he indicated that he had not cited anyone for a noise ordinance in the 13 years he has worked for the city.  Despite that ringing endorsement the witch hunt continued.

At one point there was an argument about whether or not a grace period should be extended for 15 minutes beyond the 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock cutoff and despite nearly unanimous support for a grace period Mary Brown cutoff debate and determined that a grace period would not be provided.  I was surprised how everyone rolled over on that point.

Speaking of Mayor Mary Brown - I have to say it appeared she had an axe to grind against the Pub and Don happened to be her hatchet man.  I wasn't the only one who noticed the attitude and afterward I spoke with another audience member who mentioned the same thing and indicated that was evident at the last meeting as well.

Despite comments that indicated a respect for personal property rights I am amazed how out of bounds the original draft ordinance was including restricting smoking on the 'leased' public property and limiting owner's ability to keep their doors open.  At one point the Pub's owner asked Don Martin how he could enforce these ordinances?  For instance would the business owner be cited if someone used one of his chairs after hours to sit and wait on a cab and whether this person could smoke a cigarette or have a drink of a soda?  Would the person have to walk next door to one of the public benches paid for by the city and wait there instead?  The city manager scoffed at the illustration but that is the bizarro restrictions that Midway Pub owners now find themselves in.

Council ultimately voted on and approved a revised ordinance that will be reviewed in November.  Despite my shock at the content of the draft and what had transpired during the meeting I am mostly disappointed that our city spent $2 million to start the Midway district on a visionary path only to divert it into a ditch with restrictions and bad feelings between the city and business owners.  Why would anyone in their right mind open a new restaurant here with that attitude?

19 comments:

  1. Down with Brown!

    If it's Brown, flush it down!

    Seriously though...I hope the fight continues. These regulations are ridiculous and I'm tired of driving elsewhere for dinner. This ordinance won't help.

    ...and could someone do something about the times of these meetings. 6:15 start times? Really?

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  2. I can see these driving away restaurants and other businesses. Whats next? On top of your rent to your landlord you must pay 33,000 dollars to the city in order to have your restaurant in the city. I know its a crazy idea (and will never happen, but as an example) but you never know what the city will do lol. What a crazy city (Personally I love Fort Thomas and plan on living there when I get established), they need to change their motto to "Driving restaurant and bar business away is our mission" lol

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  3. I do not live within earshot of the businesses in question. So, I might feel differently if that was the case. Did council have an issue because umbrellas and heating lamps are unsightly or because it would encourage people to stay

    I find it sad/interesting that Ft Thomas businesses have earlier curfews for using the sidewalks than high school students. Isn't the student curfew 11pm?

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  4. that's bush. bush league.

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  5. Making policy is like making a large dinner - it can get messy. But debate is healthy, and when policy is enacted - in this case an ordinance regulating outdoor serving - many ideas should be considered, civil argument and disagreement should take place and compromise will ultimately yield a result. The city has an obligation and responsibility to regulate the public right-of-way, i.e. the sidewalk. While many ideas were considered, many were also thrown out after being discussed and debated. Please remember that the city moved quickly in responding to suggestions to change the original ordinance. Rarely does a governmental body move to make a major policy change in a little over a week, but that is what happened here. And council also agreed to consider changes again in November. This episode demonstrates the value of a responsive, thoughtful and deliberative city council and administration.

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  6. I appreciate how difficult the process may be and I know it must be a thankless job. However, I debate that the response time was fast. Outdoor dining on the new sidewalks began July 4th and I have been reporting the issues with the 'curfew' since July 29th

    I will give you that compared to the typical government response this was faster than normal. However, the result is wrong. The city may have an obligation to regulate the public right of way but if there are no complaints and no known issues why bother having an 11 o'clock restriction or others at all? The ordinance limits the value of the Midway streetscape work for the community and local businesses.

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  7. City Council is bringing back memories of and beginning to sound a lot like Obamacare unfortunately.....and Obama is a smoker!!!!...............;-)))) Suck money from you at every single opportunity.

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  8. I do agree, our mayor needs to RETIRE! Dear GOD she has been in there far too long. Is she so afraid of change?? Sure looks that way. Why can't someone else step up to challenge her in mayoral race??
    What a joke.

    Thanks Darrin for your updates.

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  9. This is rather strange.
    There are times when we have periods of warm weather from Nov through March when sitting outside should be an option if the business wants to set them up.

    I use to travel to Alaska for business in Feb and March and when the temps got to about 40 in Anchorage some eating establishments put tables on the sidewalks so people could eat outside ----and they did.

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  10. It would be nice to have a big article about this controversy in the FT Recorder or some other outlet that will reach more people. It's a shame our city is so backward. Heaters, umbrellas? What's the problem???

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  11. We actually have a link to our website on cincinnati.com (http://local.cincinnati.com/community/getCommunity.aspx?cid=100015) but the best way to spread the word on issues like these is by word of mouth. Tell your neighbors. Old media is dead.

    There was a Community Recorder reporter there though, so I'm sure an article will be forthcoming.

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  12. If noise is such a priority all of a sudden, they should come to Gettysburg Square around 2 AM. The decibel level from drunk people yelling and blowing their horns is higher than what you would get from outdoor dining.

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  13. Or what about the Vernon Lane Swim Club after midnight? It is located in Mayor Brown's back yard and none of the screaming, loud music, outdoor grilling, logo umbrellas, smoking and drinking seem to bother her regarding the private club she is a member of.

    Keep in mind her private club is in a residential neighborhood!

    I support the Midway.

    Cat

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  14. The cost (TAX) to lease a spot for a table is $10 / year - Sounds reasonable, but why charge anything? Since the business owner(s) are responsible for ALL maintenance and cleaning, what will this TAX money be used for? Maybe for SHOP FORT THOMAS advertising? Sounds like they are assessing this TAX because they can, not because it is necessary.

    To get a permit business owners must submit a site plan showing the location of the tables. - Good idea.

    No outdoor dining permitted between Nov 16th to March 14th - Why? Weather permitting, outdoor seating should be determined by demand, not rule. Another, we can make a law, so we will.

    Umbrellas used with the tables can not contain any logos or advertisements - Why? I dare anyone that frequents places with outdoor seating to find anything offensive printed on umbrellas. An umbrella with Blue Moon, Bass Ale or Midway Cafe seems pretty harmless. Another, we can make a law, so we will.

    Doors can not be propped open. - Why? The city has a noise ordinance, simply enforce it. If excessive noise is escaping the establishment because the door is open, tell them to close the door(s). If they don't, fine them. Seems easy enough. Servers prefer an open door if possible for both speed and safety of service. Another, we can make a law, so we will.

    Possibly the most egregious of the restrictions was the proposal to prevent smoking on the sidewalk. - Why? Another, we can make a law, so we will.

    No cooking is permitted outdoors. - Why? This is reasonable, if space is limited. If space allows, it becomes another, we can make a law, so we will.

    No heaters can be provided - Why? The new tall propane heaters are safe, attractive and efficient. (Check out the ones on the cafeteria deck at Highlands) What is the downside?. Another, we can make a law, so we will.

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  15. Does the city not realize that for every dollar spent inside or out of a city business, they get their cut? Smart city council members should be volunteering to walk the streets of Fort Thomas, wearing sandwich boards, inviting consumers to frequent local establishments.

    My wife and I go to Bellevue the first Friday of each month when ALL of the businesses (not just the food and beverage places) are open until 10:00 PM.

    http://www.shopbellevueky.com

    The "Avenue" is pretty much packed with CONSUMERS. We usually have dinner at one of the restaurants and maybe pick up something at one of the other businesses.

    It would be much easier for us to do this in Fort Thomas.

    Maybe the TABLE TAX could be used for a shuttle between Uptown and the Midway on SHOP FORT THOMAS FRIDAYS.

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  16. First the city needs to finish the Midway streetscape. Bets are that it will still have orange cones on the corners at Thanksgiving.

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  17. Thank the lord Mr Martin left bellevue. The man is out of touch with reality. Have fun with him. You all bought him.

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  18. Anonymous,

    I Got a noise nocence TICKET on6/10/2012. I dont even live near the buisness, The ticket states 2.00pm officer 4734.
    So I went to the police station to see why,I was told it was my bird and the lady told me I wish I could fine someone for the birds that wake me up in the morning,
    I take care of my aunt with COPD she called me for help 12pm Iwent to grand towers gave her a breathing treament,I got home at
    3.15 pm.I have birds that are never left out unless Am home there show birds worth $6,ooo dollar's ,At the same time a pool party was going on and lasted til 12am the noise is so loud you cant hear yourself think all day and all night these people have been doing this for years and nothing is ever said, I will take responabilty for my birds,Can you see what is going to happen to the customer's,It seems like it is pick and choose in Fort Thomas

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  19. Who pay's the taxes we the people!!!! It is time for change,WE have a bad drug problem in our Mayberry Town Go after those people, Leave the honesty business owners alone,Spend your time on important things!!!!! NOW!!!!

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