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Flagler Beach Commission vs. Hurricane Patty’s: A Lot of Noise Over a Few Complaints

| January 28, 2011

Hurricane Patty's was quiet Thursday eveing because many patrons were at the Flagler Beach City Commission, advocating for the restaurant and bar on the Intracoastal. (© FlaglerLive)

Hurricane Patty's was quiet Thursday eveing because many patrons were at the Flagler Beach City Commission, advocating for the restaurant and bar on the Intracoastal. (© FlaglerLive)

Hurricane Patty’s opened as a bar and restaurant at the foot of the Flagler Beach bridge on the east side of the Intracoastal in mid-December. The place had been empty for about four years following the closure of Mad Dog’s. It’s been busy since. Some 80 people have been employed in one capacity or another ion that period, according to co-owner Chuck Stanford. The business employs about 45 to 50 part-time or full-time jobs, not including the work it provides bands nightly. In one month alone, Hurricane Patty’s paid out $45,000 to employees.


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Though it’s been catering to thousands of patrons, the restaurant now finds itself embroiled in a conflict with the city over noise complaints. Six noise complaints, to be precise, from four households on either Lehigh or Lambert Avenues. Police log reviews showed that the Flagler Beach Police received two noise-complaint calls the night of Jan. 14. Both times an officer responded to the restaurant, he reported either that he could not hear anything or that the music had stopped. No decibel readings were taken either time (the officer, in any case, had forgotten how to use the meter since his original training, according to a memo by Acting City Manager Bruce Campbell to commissioners).

Stanford, who owns Hurricane Patty’s with his wife Darcy—as they do another Hurricane Patty’s in St. Augustine—says there’s never been a single documented case of music noise levels exceeding the city’s regulations. Decibel levels in commercial and tourist areas may not exceed 70 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and 65 after 10 p.m. (residential area’s limits are 55 and 60). “We’ve stayed within the rules. Still, people complain,” Stanford said Thursday evening. “There were complaints before we even opened, based on previous restaurants.”

Stanford was standing outside the city commission chambers, where commissioners had just spent more than two hours discussing their noise ordinance, mostly concerning Hurricane Patty’s, and listening to a stream of people speak mostly  in favor of the restaurant and against new strictures proposed by Commissioner Ron Vath, including lowering the decibel limit by five units. The proposal drew the largest crowd at a commission meeting in months: the meeting room itself was at capacity, and two to three dozen more people gathered outside city hall’s entrance to hear the proceedings on a loudspeaker.

The city commission was uncertain how to proceed. With Vath’s exception, none of the commissioners was familiar with decibel measures. None, including Vath, could—or had the means, at the meeting—to tell the difference between a decibel level of, say, 65 as opposed to 70. And there was no documented evidence of the problem other than neighbors’ complaints. “I’m very hesitant to change the decibel thing now,” Commission Chairman John Feind said.

Happy-hour overflow at the city commission Thursday evening. (© FlaglerLive)

The commission is also facing an undercurrent of criticism for seeming “anti-business,” if not particularly anti restaurant business: commissioners have been haggling for a year over the future of the Pier Restaurant, whose current owner wants to be rid of the place. The city has been entertaining a proposal from Raymond Barshay, the Ormond Beach restaurateur, but those negotiations have been slow and painful for both sides. (The city owns the pier and leases the restaurant.)  On the other hand, as Commissioner Joy McGrew noted, businesses have rights and expectations, but so do residents, who the commission also must represent. And she made a point that may well require a wording change in the ordinance, which distinguishes between amplified and non-amplified music.

“So it’s not saying you can’t have amplified music after 10,” McGrew said. “To me, bottom line is, if you don’t exceed 65 decibel level, then I don’t care how you play your music.  I don’t care how many speakers you have plugged in. As long as you keep it to 65 and it’s not become a nuisance to the neighborhood. And even though there’s been a tremendous amount of people here representing the residents, and it doesn’t matter if we get one complaint, or 50 complaints. We still have to take into consideration that we are looking at the whole picture.”

So rather than decide to rewrite the city’s noise ordinance outright, the city commission delegated Commissioner Steve Settle to mediate a public town hall meeting (at the commission chambers) between restaurant owners and residents in order to explore the issue and possibly find a new middle ground.

Hurricane Patty’s owners had implored commissioners to let common sense and everyday compromise have a chance: we want to do the right thing, however they’re not giving us a chance to find out what the community wants.” Darcy Stanford said. “In my opinion nothing should be changed right now because it’s too soon.” Stanford conceded that in St. Augustine, the decibel level limit is lower, by five units, than it is in Flagler Beach.

Rob Plimpton, one of the speakers, described meeting Stanford while she was using a decibel meter outside the restaurant and being “very diligent” about keeping within the limits. “It’s a nice place, it seems like they’re trying to do a good job, keeping by the laws of Flagler Beach. I have a lot of friends that are musicians, they play there. I’ve never noticed loud music that was over loud.” Victor Rugg, a resident of Lambert Avenue who said his family has been coming to Flagler Beach since 1957, said the restaurant had promised not to have amplified music when it originally applied for its permit, though it does have amplified music now. “We want them to stay, I don’t want them to go, but I want this issue to be finally put to bed. If we have to lower the decibels, let’s lower the decibels.” He conceded, however, that it’s happened only twice—the loud noise. “Most of the time they’re quiet. Great. Why can’t they be quiet all of the time?”

It’s not just Hurricane Patty’s: David Hogan told the commission that since he moved to a place near the Beachhouse Beanery, he’s been kept up by the noise at Finn’s, but he’s never complained. “I just don’t see where it does any good to cry to people,” he said.

Hurricane Patty’s itself was relatively quiet Thursday evening, with many of its patrons at the commission meeting. Steve Dobson, a home inspector from Palm Coast, was there, as he is on occasion because of the place’s unique amenities: “This is the only place in Flagler County on the Intracoastal that has public access,” Dobson said, “and that’s what draws my wife and I here. We’re water people. We’re boat people. That’s another thing: This is one of the only places you can boat up to.”

(© FlaglerLive)


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38 Responses for “Flagler Beach Commission vs. Hurricane Patty’s: A Lot of Noise Over a Few Complaints”

  1. TED JOHNSON says:

    my band played for 4 hrs. last saturday afternoon to a packed house. we were continually asked by customers to “turn it up”, we didn’t. during our “gig” i used my db meter at several locations on the property. special attention was paid to the boat dock area on the river. i also monitored the readings of normal conversation, 52db, bridge traffic from a location in the parking lot, 72db, and at several other locations on the property. db readings alone will never be the only criteria for a complaint.
    i suggest a reading be taken at the point of complaint, the residence phoneing in the problem, then
    visit the source of the noise. like it or not, we are a tourist destination on the water, and you can visit us by boat. that’s why i moved here 30 years ago when THE BRIDGETENDER offered live music nitely.

       0 likes

  2. NortonSmitty says:

    I can’t believe I was out of commission and missed this post. I was one of the Flagler locals who cared enough to show up at the Council meeting. I felt it was my duty as I had been there several times, enjoyed myself and was glad to see some brave souls come in to town where many others had gone down swinging. Anybody brave enough to resurrect what had become a civic black eye and put there money in our city deserves our patronage and support.

    Before the meeting, I was told by a city employee that the reason the subject came in front of them at all is that after the complaints from the residents across the river, they sent someone with the city decibel meter to check it out. Being untrained, he set the meter not to the DBA setting but DBC, which is a whole different scale used to measure bird calls and things. Natch, it exceeded the limit..

    So no problem you would think. I have never at any hour heard the music loud at all from 30 feet away. The only thing I can think of for the complaints from the Folks across the river is that maybe the water amplifies the sound somehow. Or maybe it’s just the lack of children for the cranky old farts to yell “Hey you kids, get off of my lawn” every day to get the vinegar out of their system. Being that I recognize some of them from their crotchety right-wing posts, I’m betting the latter.

    Hey, since they found out what Teabagger really means, maybe they can change the name of that collection of nitwits to the “Hey you kids, get offa my lawn” Party. It sure fits!

       0 likes

  3. Jason Davis says:

    I understand that everyone has a right to their opinions. I am a little dissappointed in especially Mr John Smith. How can you sit at home and pray for a business in your community to fail? You should be old enough to understand the implications of this. Shame on you and your lack of morals. Anyways, I’m sure you will realize this lack of judgment on your part.
    I believe in fairness, and I would love to see everyone happy. Unfortunately, we all know that some will never be happy! I say, lets keep the 95% happy and wait for the other 5% to fade away. Hurricane Patty’s is gonna be in Flagler Beach for a long time. You can chose to be a part of the fun or not. Either way, we’re gonna rock & roll (within the law).

       0 likes

  4. John Smith says:

    As typical the only right people are you people. JASON show me where I said anything about praying for them to fail, I don’t believe I said pray. I said maybe they will and it will all be for nothing. Always the bad guy, but do not really care. Everything has been fine since all this came to a head so let it alone time to move on ( like you said Jason within the LAW).

       0 likes

  5. NortonSmitty says:

    John, as a fellow Smith, get out of your beautiful riverfront cocoon, cross the bridge or the water and come over and have a really good meal and maybe a drink if you want. It would do you a world of good to get out and meet some of your neighbors that you seem to be having a problem with. Nobody will have to know who you are unless you choose to tell. I always enjoy pissing people off face to face so much more, but that’s just me. Let me know here and I’ll meet you and buy the first round. Maybe sitting and listening to that music has got you brooding about other people having fun without you. Give it a shot, you have nothing to lose. Consider this a sincere formal invitation.

    P.S. If your worried about being a pain in the ass without knowing it, don’t. I promise I will be the first to tell you. No worries.

       0 likes

  6. ShoreGirl says:

    It is strange to me how the same few people in this community…Mr. Ellis, Mr. Darrow and Mr. Miklos have to make everyones life a living hell. Shouldn’ t you be playing golf or something? Or..go to Hurricane Patty’s and have a drink and enjoy the music and quit complaining. All 3 of you have complained about everyone in this neighborhood in one way or another. Are your windows still shaking from the excessively loud music? Call your home builder. Allow these people to make a living and support their families. They are doing it honestly. Too bad we couldn’t have a marina close by…or can we? That would give you something new to complain about.

       0 likes

  7. Alishia says:

    I LOVE Hurricane Patty’s, LOVE the water, LOVE boats and the overall atmosphere of Flagler Beach, if you can’t handle the beach life MOVE, I will DEFINITELY be going back for the great food and drinks and the AWESOME music….KEEP up the GREAT work Hurricane Patty’s

       1 likes

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