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Council expects heat from live music proposal

Three members of the Port Orchard City Council have agreed to unleash a “stink bomb” and back an noise ordinance change that would give downtown restaurateurs the right to play music outside on Friday and Saturday nights until 1:30 a.m.

The three council members, who make up the council’s public safety committee, made the decision to get behind the proposal after a lengthy discussion Tuesday evening. Councilman Ron Rider, the former owner of Bay Street’s Harborside Bar and Grill, was the driving force behind the proposal. He said the move was necessary in order to keep struggling businesses open and attract new customers to the downtown area.

“We’re talking about revitalizing downtown; we’re talking about economic development,” Rider said. “I’ll tell you, this was one of our biggest concerns while we were in business.”

Speaking from his experiences as a bar owner, Rider said trying to get customers in the door and then keep them there long enough to turn a profit was always challenging. In the summer, his bar had offered outdoor live music as a draw, but the habits of bar patrons conflicted sharply with the strictures of the noise ordinance.

As Rider pointed out, bar patrons usually come out after the sun sets and, for much of the summer, it doesn’t really get dark until nearly 10 p.m. That meant his patrons typically stuck around for one hour, until the noise ordinance shut the band down at 11 p.m.

Alcohol itself, Rider continued, isn’t enough to keep customers entertained anymore. With ever-increasing crackdowns by law enforcement on drunk drivers, he explained, people are afraid to drink more than a glass or two.

“Nobody wants to go out and just drink anymore,” Rider said. “If you have music for them to listen to, maybe they’ll stick around.”

Rider’s original proposal was to allow Bay Street restaurants and bars to have outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights only during the summer.

However, Police Chief Al Townsend said it was difficult to enforce rules that were calendar-specific — it tended to cause confusion and led to more disagreements between proprietors and police officers.

Committee chair Councilman Todd Cramer pointed out weather issues made it unlikely anyone would want to listen to music outside anytime but during the summer, anyway.

He said he would rather see a blanket rule, rather than a seasonal one, regardless of the inevitable uproar from residents who were not in favor of outdoor bands.

“If you want it, write it for the full enchilada,” Cramer said.

Cramer also advised Rider to ask for a cutoff time of 1:30 a.m., even though it was highly unlikely the council would approve it. Rider said he felt midnight or 12:30 a.m. curfews would be reasonable for businesses, but agreed it would be better to aim high and let council discussion negotiate the time down to something that would work for everyone.

At the same meeting, the public safety committee decided to leave intact the portion of the noise ordinance addressing construction work hours. At a previous city council meeting, some council members expressed concern because the holidays listed as late-start days — particularly Christmas — could be interpreted as being prejudicial in favor of Christians.

The committee decided to cut the confusion by adding a reference to “federal holidays” where the specific holidays were listed.

“I think using federal holidays keeps it pretty clean,” Cramer said.

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