After two months of public discussion on noise stemming from the North End Tap House, and a month-long moratorium on noise complaints, Mayor Sam Henderson proposed a 30-day adjustment to the city’s noise ordinance that, with a 2-3 vote, failed to pass.
The current noise ordinance requires businesses to operate under 65 decibels until 11 p.m., at which point it drops to 55 decibels. The owners of the Tap House, along with musicians and customers, had claimed that 65 decibels is far too low, and can be reached through a room of casual conversation alone. Local residents had complained that not only was noise from the Tap House exceeding normal limits, but was doing so late into the evenings, sometimes well past 11 p.m.
Henderson’s proposed compromise was to, for 30 days, raise the normal decibel limit to 75, but cut it down to 55 decibels at 10 p.m., an hour earlier than usual.
Kelly Wright, one of the co-owners of the Tap House, spoke in support of the idea, saying “Every single establishment here in Gulfport plays their music over 65 decibels… what I’m asking for is a reasonable level that we can all operate at”.
Houston Gilbreath, also a co-owner, spoke about what he claims are unreasonable complaints leveled against the Tap House.
“Even something as basic as a guy with a guitar, sitting on a chair, playing acoustic guitar, received a complaint and the police showed up. At 2:25 on a Sunday afternoon. It was 68 [decibels], I think.”
“I don’t see that there’s a dollar value tied to how loud my music is, and nobody can justify that in any argument.”
When the change came to a vote at the end of the meeting, Councilmember Michael Fridovich also supported the trial, but other members were more hesitant.
Vice Mayor April Thanos, who later voted no, expressed concern for how a change in the citywide ordinance would affect venues elsewhere in the city.
“Have you talked to any of the other bars that do their music later, about how they feel about having to stop an hour earlier?” Thanos asked Henderson. “Effectively, if you go from 75 to 55, they’re going to have to turn off their music…some of the others that go to 11, have you talked to them?”
“I have in the past when we brought this up before, long before you came, and it’s the same scenario now, we did nothing then… they were all interested in being able to play louder,” Henderson responded.
“I’m still interested in seeing how the mitigating efforts are going, so I don’t think it’s a good idea for me at this time,” said Councilmember Christine Brown, voting no.
Paul Ray spoke the strongest against the idea, saying “most of the time that I go into these places at night, I can’t bloody hear a thing, I can’t have a conversation, I gotta leave to go do it, is that fun? No. I don’t see that there’s a dollar value tied to how loud my music is, and nobody can justify that in any argument.”
“Well roll the dice, I just need one person to say you’ll try it for 30 days, if you don’t like it you don’t have to buy it,” responded Henderson.
“I just think it’s a bad idea, it’s worked fine all along, I don’t see the point. I just don’t see that there’s a real need here,” answered Ray, casting the deciding no vote.
With the failed vote, normal enforcement of the noise ordinance returns as the moratorium has ended.
To read more about other decisions made at the June 1 Gulfport City Council meeting, check out this article.