TWISler Breakdown: Noise and Entertainment Ordinances

Published Dec. 31, 2010

TWISler Breakdown: Noise and Entertainment Ordinances

The number one culprit holding this “Creative Paradise” of ours back from becoming the best damn place on Earth to live and work is a medley of Sarasota City and County laws commonly referred to collectively as the “Noise Ordinance.” You’ve probably heard about these nasty little boogers before, but you may not realize exactly how much they affect your nightlife options, especially in the live music department, and therefore how detrimental they are to the health and well-being of Sarasota’s unique contemporary music scene. Basically, the story goes like this:

Once upon a time (the ’90s) in a land far, far away (Downtown Sarasota) some commissioners decided to let some developers fill up some plots of prime bay front real estate with a bunch of high-rise condo developments. Retirees of every age (over 65) traveled from far and wide to buy them up, expecting to live out the rest of their days snuggled cozy in their peaceful, quiet penthouse sanctuaries with panoramic views of the Gulf. But one night, they began to hear horrible noises coming from the street below. The noises grew so loud that they decided to make a few direct phone calls to some local elected officials to have the horrible noises silenced. They came to find out that the noises were coming from a bar in the middle of downtown. Apparently, the evil bar owner down the street had hired a group of local hoodlums, called a “band,” to create a horrible mixture of sounds, which they called “music,” in some kind of sick, twisted plot to attract other hoodlums, called a “crowd,” as a way for the bar owner to make money, which the city calls “tax revenue.” Of course, these heroic condo owners weren’t about to let that evil bar owner disturb their peaceful sanctuary with full panoramic views. So, they picked up their trusty phones and they called, and called, and called. They called the Police. They called the commissioners. They called the mayor. They even called that evil bar owner and told him to take those horrible noises away or they would consider litigation. They called, and called, and called, and called until their arthritic fingers could dial no more. And whenever a person on the phone would ask their name, they would muster all the strength they had in their geriatric bodies, take a short breath, and defiantly proclaim, “I’m a concerned tax paying citizen, and that’s all you need to know.” Thankfully, a knight in shining armor (the Sarasota City Commission) soon heard their calls, and slayed that evil bar owner’s band of hoodlums (ability to draw a crowd after 10 p.m.) with one fail swoop of his mighty sword (City Noise Ordinance), finally silencing those horrible noises once and for all. As the years went by, the noises became softer and softer, until one day they faded away completely. Without any noise to keep Downtown alive, the city soon began to wither and die. After a while, a different band of hoodlums started hanging out down the street, right in front of the slain bar where that evil bar owner had made all those horrible noises years before. But these hoodlums were different. They didn’t go to bars, and they didn’t have any money, and they didn’t make any music. These hoodlums didn’t make any noise at all. The condo owners were finally free from those horrible noises, and they lived out the rest of their days in peace and quiet, snuggled cozy in their penthouse sanctuaries with full panoramic views of the Gulf. -The End

Of course, as we all know good and well, that wasn’t the end at all. Fast forward to today, and we’re still putting up with that pesky sword swooping away at our entertainment options every night of the week. The funny thing is, now that knight in shining armor is looking to attract all sorts of innovative, tech-savvy young professionals to our far away land. The problem is he keeps chopping and hacking apart one of the biggest factors that young entrepreneurs look at when deciding which far away land they will pick to start their internet business and build their castle.

Alright, enough with the fairy tales. There’s certainly nothing enchanting about Sarasota County’s “entertainment ordinance,” the Charlie Manson of shitty laws. This joyful little piece of legislation stipulates that local establishments are not allowed to have live (as in a human being) entertainment past 10 p.m. unless granted a special exception. That means a stand-up comedian, an interpretive dancer, even a freakin’ mime, is not permitted after 10 o’clock any night of the week throughout the entirety of Sarasota County. No worries, just go get a special exception right? Sure, if you have $12-15,000 sitting around for lawyers and consultants and a few extra months to wait on the approval process. I guess there’s a reason only nine commercially zoned businesses in the whole of Sarasota County currently hold exceptions. Add The Beach Club, with its convenient Grandfather Clause exception, and the Cock & Bull way out there in industrial zoning, and you have a grand total of 11 places to catch a live band after 10 p.m. How many local musicians do you think we could keep around town if every music venue in the County was allowed to book two additional bands every night? It’s like licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop – the world may never know.

Check back next week for TWISler’s newest Tuesday Breakdown
Talking Points: The facts you need to know

– Sarasota County’s “entertainment ordinance” stipulates that local establishments are not permitted to have live (human) entertainment past 10 p.m. unless granted a special exception. Not so much as a mime is allowed after 10 o’clock otherwise.

– The estimated overall cost of obtaining a special exception is more than $12-15,000, with a months long approval process.

– There are only nine businesses in commercially zoned areas of Sarasota County that currently hold exceptions: The Hub Baja Grill, Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar, Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Captain Curt’s, Pastimes Pub, Boar’s Head, Nightlife Center, Kirby’s and The Hoosier Bar in Osprey. The Beach Club is exempted by a grandfather clause and the Cock & Bull is in industrial zoning.

– In February, downtown restaurant owner Paul Mattison successfully convinced the Sarasota City Commission to extend live music cut-off times for businesses zoned for the downtown core until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. His business had taken a $60,000 hit after an anonymous noise complaint forced him to abide by the former laws (10 and 11 p.m. respectively) for two months.

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