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Sylva pub launches petition to amend town noise ordinance

fr nonameA pair of dueling petitions dealing with the question of noise at No Name Sports Pub will likely spar at the upcoming Sylva Town Board meeting Feb. 5.  

Owner Gregg Fuller had approached the board earlier this month asking that it forgive the pile of noise citations he’d accumulated — unjustly, he says — over the past year and that the noise ordinance be revised to specify what decibel level is too much. 

But he was countered by a group of three neighbors bearing a petition 51 signatures strong alleging that “there is no advantage to this community by having this bar here, only trouble, noise and health problems and drugs.” The board seemed to side with the neighbors, giving Fuller a verbal tongue-lashing and instructing him to start being a better neighbor. As a result, Fuller announced that he was cancelling his music acts indefinitely and ordered a soundproofing curtain for the patio.

No music won’t work as the status quo for No Name, though, and plenty of people disagree with the commissioners’ reaction to the issue.

A Facebook page called “Save Sylva Night Life and Music Scene, No Name Sports Pub,” launched Jan. 26 and received more than 500 likes in the first day. And a petition housed at the bar calling for “a more specifically written sound ordinance” that would “require a specific decibel level and time of duration for sound before a violation [can be] given” garnered 100 signatures in the same timeframe, with multiple Facebook commenters saying they’d sign if the petition went online. 

“What we would like to see happen is if the neighbors complain, when the police show up they would have discretion but they would also have a tool that specifically measures the volume and then know if we were in violation or not,” said Mary Harper, music booker and bar manager for No Name. 

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Sylva police have been instructed to issue noise citations based on neighbors’ reporting. Harper doesn’t believe that the noise complaints line up with the days when the sound is actually the loudest. Tuesday night tends to be the loudest of all, she said, because that’s open mic night and people who don’t have much experience with using a microphone or adjusting for sound volume are on the stage. But No Name has never gotten a noise complaint on a Tuesday. 

“They [the town aldermen] would tell you that ordinance is business-friendly. I would say it is not business-friendly,” Fuller said. “It’s being used as a tool to do hit us with whether we’re doing something wrong or not.”

Drew Hooper, the neighbor who created the petition opposing No Name, never had a sit-down conversation with Fuller or Harper about the noise before calling the police or writing the petition. He said that’s because he doesn’t believe it would make a difference — “he’s just an arrogant person,” Hooper said of Fuller — but Fuller says that’s not true at all. 

“I’ve spent my life doing the right things for the right reasons, and I’m not guilty of what I’m accused of,” he said. “That’s all there is to it.”

Hooper also isn’t in favor of Harper’s proposed change to the sound ordinance. He’s pretty sure that by the time police responded to a call, the sound level would be down again and no consequences would ensue. 

“They might holler and scream one minute and then you run out there and check it and everybody gets quiet,” he said. “That wouldn’t work because it goes up and down at different times.”

The only way he would support such a change would be if a continuous noise meter were installed on No Name’s property to monitor fluctuations in sound levels. 

Whatever the solution, Harper said, it’s unreasonable to force the bar to stop hosting live music altogether or to ditch its late-night hours. Music and extended hours are how No Name distinguishes itself, vital assets to staying in business. 

Fuller is backing off from his initial plan to cancel all music, instead cutting back from four or five concerts per week to one, on a weekend night. The late-night hours will stay in place. 

“Eighty percent of our customers are service industry people that work all over town and get off at 10 or 11 or 1,” Harper said. “They deserve a place to come and relax after work, just like people who get off at 5. If we lose our late-night hours, it’s going to be very hard to survive, because that’s when our people come in.”

Anyway, if someone is upset about the bar’s presence in the community, Harper said, they should be mad at the town, not at No Name. The pub operates in an area that’s zoned for uses including nightclubs, so a certain level of noise should be expected with that designation. If residents didn’t want to see that kind of business come into their neighborhood, she said, they should have made a fuss when the zoning first came about. 

“It’s a classic case of people bought property on the edge of town because they didn’t want to be in town but they didn’t want to be too far out, but town grew,” Harper said. “That put those people inside city limits and put them dealing with businesses like us.”

To make it work, both sides will have to compromise, Harper said. 

Hooper, however, stands by his position that the noise is too much and the bar a blight on the neighborhood. He’s planning to have many more than 50 signatures in hand when he returns to town hall next week. 

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