St. Pete City Council finally came to consensus on an update to the city’s noise ordinance. The board approved a measure that requires bars and restaurants with outdoor noise projection to point the speakers toward its customers, not toward its neighbors.
Specifically, the ordinance requires the speakers to be permanently mounted and be directed away from residences.
The issue came up after a number of downtown St. Pete condo owners complained about booming noise from neighboring establishments well into the night.
An original ordinance proposed by City Council member Karl Nurse would have been far more strict requiring businesses to move speakers inside after 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. That measure was stalled last Spring when business owners and their employees complained the ordinance would be bad for business.
Council members Steve Kornell and Jim Kennedy, who backed the latest measure, initially hit the pause button worried onerous restrictions would stifle the burgeoning downtown nightlife scene.
Kornell said people wrongfully assumed he was anti-noise ordinance, but that was not the case.
“At one point there was an ordinance in front of us that would have prohibited talking on the sidewalk,” Kornell said. “That was not a balanced ordinance. That was a problematic ordinance.”
A handful of downtown residents pushing changes to the city’s noise ordinance were on hand during City Council’s Thursday meeting to support the latest compromise. Many of those same individuals had attended a number of meetings between the city, condo owners and businesses hashing out a deal that worked for everyone.
“We do support the various restaurants and night clubs downtown, but there has to be this critical balance,” said Dr. Mack Hicks of the Downtown Residents Civic Association echoing several similar statements by other downtown residents.
Based on public comment from those residents, the biggest offender is Tryst on Beach Drive. Residents in The Cloisters Beach Drive said the noise is often so loud it creeps into residents’ living rooms and bedrooms keeping those individuals up late into the night and often unable to have company.
And there was some sentiment that Tryst was being the ultimate bad neighbor. Council member Kornell said he went to Tryst one night and asked about the smaller speakers and toned down noise. He said he was told by an employee that the city was watching the establishment closely, but to wait a few weeks and the party would be back.
Kornell called the business “sneaky.”
Council member Jim Kennedy also claimed Tryst makes little to no effort to keep the sidewalk clear in front of its establishment despite language in the current ordinance requiring them to do so.
Supporters of the ordinance implored the city to ensure adequate enforcement of the updated ordinance.
“You can have ordinance but they have to be enforced,” Hicks said.