BAR HARBOR — Little A’s restaurant and sports bar received approval from the Town Council last week to continue to host live music under a special amusement permit. But councilors asked for monthly reports from police about noise complaints.
Two neighbors expressed concern about noise at the public hearing when the special amusement permit came up for renewal at the March 15 Town Council meeting. The restaurant often hosts live music on weekends and an open mike night event on Tuesdays. Under the special amusement permit, bands with three or more musicians may use mechanical amplification.
“I’ve had complaints from my weekly rental tenants on the second floor, so I had to move into that unit myself,” next-door neighbor Thomas Marinke said. “It’s real noisy, especially on open mike night. I’ve called the cops lots of times, but … nothing happens.”
Marinke’s property used to be a restaurant, Little A’s owner Sal Clouse told the Islander this week. “I had no notification there was a high-end weekly rental going in next door” in what’s mostly a business district, he said.
Councilors received a report from Police Chief Jim Willis listing 12 noise complaints about the restaurant between May 2015 and January 2016. Only one was substantiated by an officer. That complaint, in August, resulted in a warning for an ordinance violation.
At the hearing, Clouse said he has worked closely with neighbors and police. After a slew of complaints in August, he installed a new air conditioning system and asked bartenders to make sure doors and windows are shut during music nights. They’ve also sent customers to front or side decks to smoke, trying to direct them away from the nearest neighbors.
“We’re doing everything we’ve been asked to do,” Clouse said. “At 10 p.m. the microphone goes down. We’ve only had one noise complaint substantiated [by police] in the last four years.”
Balancing the rights of the residents and business owners in this case is tricky, councilors said. They combed the language of the ordinance for what kinds of violations can result in a permit being revoked vs. not renewed.
“It’s a problem, and the town’s aware of it,” Councilor David Bowden said. “But I’m not sure he’s violated his permit. I’m not sure what the grounds would be to not issue” a renewal.
“The ordinance protects both sides from making a snap judgment,” Councilor Burt Barker said. After the council voted 5-1 to approve the permit renewal, Barker made another motion requesting follow-up from town staff. It passed unanimously. The police chief will continue to work with the restaurant owners and with neighbors, and provide monthly status reports to council.
Councilor Anne Greenlee cast the dissenting vote in the permit renewal. “I can understand the frustration of having to call repeatedly,” she said. “Police have already been requested to do proactive patrols, and it hasn’t resulted in an improved situation.”