2013-09-19 / Around Town

Restricted License OK'd

By Tom Shevlin

Seeking to strike a compromise with neighborhood concerns, the Newport City Council last week voted in favor of issuing a restricted outdoor entertainment license to The Pier Restaurant on Lee’s Wharf.

The license, which will allow the popular waterfront establishment to play amplified music outside no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends, passed on a 5-2 vote with minimal discussion.

The owners of the restaurant had originally asked for permission to operate outdoor entertainment until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends; however, that request stirred up objections from a neighboring marina association that has long expressed concerns over the operation of The Pier and its late night crowds.

Last month, those neighbors, led by philanthropist and waterfront advocate Elizabeth Meyer, formally objected to the request during a lengthy hearing before the council.

Arguing that at least a portion of The Pier’s outdoor patio has been deemed a right of way by the state Coastal Resources Management Council, Meyer cautioned the council that their decision could set a bad precedent.

According to the city, between 2006 and 2010, there were over a dozen noise complaints associated with The Pier, including two documented violations – one in 2006 and another in 2007.

It was Second Ward Councilor Justin S. McLaughlin who first proposed a compromise.

His suggestion: restricting amplified music at The Pier to 65 decibels and limiting its hours to 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends.

Upon first reading, McLaughlin referenced past precedent set by a previous council in restricting noise pollution at Waite's Wharf. However, Councilwoman Naomi L. Neville expressed skepticism over the proposal.

“I believe that a compromise is the right approach,” she said, "but I find these restrictions to be at a sort of micromanagement level that will be hard to enforce.”

Joining Neville in opposing the license was Third Ward Councilwoman Kathryn E. Leonard, whose district includes the Lower Thames Street area and property in question.

Citing the property’s record – including an incident earlier this summer in which music was playing at an outdoor bar prior to a license even being issued – Leonard said that she could not bring herself to support granting any license that could disturb the neighborhood.

“It’s totally wrong to have music and entertainment without a license,” she said in casting the second nay vote.

As for McLaughlin, he raised the possibility of the council embarking on a more comprehensive review of the ordinances that govern outdoor entertainment.

“There are some rough edges in our ordinances,” he said, adding that a more thorough discussion should take place before the council votes on license renewals later this year.

McLaughlin also said that after paying a visit to the property, he had noticed a table sitting within a public right of way.

Moving forward, he said that he would hope that the owners of the property will work with the city to ensure that public access is protected.

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