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Lawyers involved in Sylva’s bar noise dispute

Attorneys for the Town of Sylva and No Name Sports Pub are busy trying to hash out the legal road forward for the town’s noise ordinance and sound levels at the music-oriented bar. 

Following a Feb. 5 town meeting during which No Name supporters and opponents alike filled town hall to sound off during the public comment session, the bar’s lawyer contacted the town.

“He said that they wanted to settle this matter amicably,” Town Manager Paige Dowling said of Jim Moore, attorney for No Name owner Gregg Fuller. Moore had served as an assistant district attorney until last year, when he lost a heated election for district attorney to Ashley Welch, who also was an assistant district attorney. 

“The town’s attorney [Eric Ridenour] was working with him on having music that stopped once the noise ordinance started to keep both the neighbors and the customers happy,” Dowling said.

The town’s noise ordinance kicks in between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., deeming any sound that can be heard from neighboring properties too loud. Though the section specifies sound produced outdoors or from a vehicle, Dowling said, it still applies to sound produced inside if it can be heard outdoors. 

The folks at No Name say there’s a lot of room for improvement in Sylva’s noise ordinance. On Jan. 15, Fuller attended a town meeting to ask the board to dismiss a stack of six noise citations that his business had received since May 2014. They were given based on a noise ordinance he considers unconstitutional, he said, because the regulations are subjective and don’t allow him to measure noise levels to determine whether the bar is in compliance or not. 

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But the town board didn’t see it Fuller’s way. Instead of dismissing the tickets, they gave him a tongue-lashing in which they directed him to simply be a better neighbor. When a trio of men who live near the bar spoke — led by Drew Hooper, who held a handwritten petition signed by 50 people who agreed that “there is no advantage to this community by having this bar here” — town commissioners were sympathetic. 

“I’ve had this same experience. Believe me, it’s hard to try to sleep with your head under a pillow,” Commissioner Harold Hensley said at the time. 

Employees of the bar responded with a Facebook page and petition of their own. The page currently has 820 likes, and the petition has more than 500 signatures asking the town to rewrite its noise ordinance to something more specific, something that relies less on adjectives like “disturbing” and “unreasonable” and more on decibel readings. 

The town has no intention of changing its ordinance at this time.

“Where he’s [Fuller] located, he has neighbors close by and probably the best thing for him to do is just try to comply with the ordinance and make an effort to get along with his neighbors,” said Mayor Maurice Moody. 

Moore would not comment on his client’s preferred legal outcome for the situation. He did say that he has not filed the case in court, however. 

Following Fuller’s initial appearance at Town Hall, No Name had temporarily suspended its musical acts. But the music is now back on — sort of. The bar had hosted bands four to five times per week but is now having shows Friday and Saturday only. 

“I don’t know what the lawyers are going to work out, but we haven’t had any calls and we’ve had live music, so I don’t know what that means, if anything,” said Mary Harper, music booker and bar manager for No Name. 

Harper said they have pushed the shows’ hours back slightly — shows will now run from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. rather than from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. — and installed sound curtains around the patio. They’ve also been trying to keep the bands a little quieter. 

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen, so we’re just playing it by ear,” she said.

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