Outdoor music strikes wrong chord with Palisade residents

Sitting on the front porch of his West First Street home in Palisade, Tom Heilig describes how loud the music is three or four nights each week coming from the Palisade Distillery, which is 200 feet away,  and the Palisade Brewery, which is 600 feet from his home. “A battle of the bands” is how Heilig describes the nights when both venues are hosting music. The Heiligs have lived in their home for seven years.



Palisade Town Administrator Tim Sarmo has recommended a number of measures to turn down the volume on outdoor events at bars and the complaints they’ve generated:

• Implement a zero-tolerance policy regarding excessive noise and aggressively issue noise citations.

• Increase the fines for all noise violations from $25 to $300.

• Prohibit commercial outdoor events within 215 feet of any zone district that allows residential uses.

• Require any allowed outdoor music event ending later than 9 p.m. on weekdays or 10 p.m. on weekends to obtain a special event license after a public hearing and notification of adjacent property owners.

The Town Board will meet in a work session to discuss them but has yet to take any action on them.

Ten years ago, the loudest noise in Palisade often was emitted by 100-car coal trains barreling through downtown or trucks rumbling down Elberta Avenue as they exited Interstate 70 to drop off their cargo.

But the expansion of the Palisade Brewery, 200 Peach Ave., and Peach Street Distillers, 144 Kluge Ave., from tasting rooms to full-service bars and entertainment venues in the past few years has introduced a new set of sounds to the quiet, agricultural town.

The businesses draw scores of motorcyclists, bikers and others eager to make the trek out to the east end of the Grand Valley and cram outdoor patios, sip a locally concocted vodka or beer and drink in the rhythms of a live band.

Not everyone likes what they’re hearing, however.

Residents whose homes sit within a few hundred feet of the brewery and distillery are upset with what they say are increasingly frequent disturbances caused by live, outdoor musical performances. Town officials say they fielded a number of noise complaints the last two weekends, one of which resulted in police issuing a summons to the owners of the brewery.

After attempting to address the same issue a year ago through voluntary agreements with businesses, the Town Board appears prepared to crack down.

Town Administrator Tim Sarmo has crafted a series of regulations that, if implemented, could altogether scuttle outdoor music near homes and impose hundreds of dollars in fines for noise violations. Town trustees didn’t act on Sarmo’s recommendations during a meeting Tuesday night but agreed to discuss them further in an upcoming work session.

In a memo to the Town Board, Sarmo wrote that the town shouldn’t tolerate a worsening problem any further.

“While residential neighbors should expect some infrequent inconvenience from adjacent commercial properties, commercial operations owe greater concession to residents than currently being offered,” he wrote. “Given business failure to voluntarily control noise and patron behavior, the town should consider stepping in to protect the welfare of the neighborhood.”

Several residents testified at the meeting that their quality of life has diminished and prodded town trustees to take action to limit or eliminate the outdoor music.

“If we don’t get some resolution to this, I promise you this fight isn’t over,” said Fesalene Ashurst, who has lived with her husband, Ray, at 234 W. First St. for 42 years. Their home sits north of the distillery and brewery.

Tom Heilig said the businesses used to unplug their music at dark. But he said bands have progressively played later into the night over the past few years. One recent night, he said music continued until after 11 p.m. He claims he’s no longer able to enjoy an evening on his front porch.

“When I find it’s uncomfortable to sit and talk with my wife or a neighbor who happens to stop by, they’ve impacted the livability of my home, and that’s not fair for a private enterprise to impact an individual residence,” Heilig said.

Most neighbors, including Ken Gideon, said they’re not opposed to the distillery and brewery as businesses. Their issue lies with the outdoor music, which is featured as many as four nights a week at the brewery.

“It’s been hard for them to get the rest they need to do well in school,” Gideon told town trustees, referring to his three children.

Both Mayor Dave Walker and Police Chief Carroll Quarles apologized to residents for not acting with more authority in response to their complaints.

“I’m disappointed that a year’s gone by and we’re talking about this again,” Walker said.

Trustee Michael Krueger told brewery co-owner Pat Moe that Moe should have anticipated the problems that could accompany having outdoor music next to homes.

“Our responsibility is to protect the integrity of the neighborhood,” Krueger said.

The owners of the brewery and distillery also apologized to residents and claimed they didn’t realize the extent of the noise.

“It’s not my intention to be unneighborly,” distillery co-founder Rory Donovan said.

“We really didn’t realize how far it was going,” said Moe, who along with Sean O’Brien purchased the brewery in February.

Contacted by The Daily Sentinel Wednesday, Donovan and Moe gave different answers when asked what impact losing outdoor music would have on their businesses.

Donovan said the distillery isn’t dependent on it and estimated the business hosts bands a half-dozen times a year.

“If it would appease the people of the neighborhood, I’d be willing to forgo live music,” he said.

At the same time, Donovan said, “I feel it’s ridiculous. There should at least be an option to pull a special permit” for occasional live performances.

Moe said the brewery would lose up to half of its business if the town prohibited outdoor music. He said moving performances indoor isn’t a viable option, both because of a lack of space and because brewing beer heats and humidifies the restaurant, making it uncomfortable for performers and patrons alike.

Asked if there was a middle ground that could be reached to satisfy both the neighbors and the brewery, Moe replied, “I quite honestly don’t think, unfortunately, that there is.”


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