The Black Dog Heights Cafe on Grand Avenue has applied for a permit to allow music at its Grand Avenue restaurant from 11 AM to 9 PM, Friday through Monday.
The request went before the selectmen on Monday, March 9.
“We had received a number of emails, some in favor of the license, probably more in opposition, the concern being that there had been some noise complaints from the prior establishment when they had amplified music outdoors,” Selectmen Chairwoman Megan E. English Braga said.
Multiple emails referenced the Silver Shores Shanty when asking the board of selectmen to deny an entertainment license application.
“We had to deal with hearing ‘acoustic, amplified music’ a few years ago all the way up the hill on the green from the former Shanty restaurant that used to operate at the same location,” wrote Stephen and Susan Daniel of Hope Avenue. “It was a nuisance to all Heights residents to hear unwanted music instead of the ocean waves when opening our windows. Think of how you would feel if you left your house to take a walk or walk your dog and it sounded like your neighbor was having an outdoor party with live entertainment every weekend. That’s what it feels like when music is played outdoors there.”
Several of those who sent emails, including Paula Lichter of Deacons Avenue, were in attendance on Monday. She noted there are 41 residences within 300 feet of the restaurant.
“I really want everybody to be happy,” Ms. Lichter said. “I want the Black Dog and their patrons to be happy, and I want the neighbors to be happy, including me. If the music is contained within the property, which is what you’re speaking about, for the benefit of patrons only, and I don’t hear it, then it’s not a problem for me, and it shouldn’t be a problem for other neighbors, as well. The question here is how to make that happen.”
She asked that the existing standard for indoor entertainment be applied to outdoor entertainment. The policy for indoor entertainment states it must not be heard outside the building.
“I can walk up and down Main Street on a summer evening and not hear a thing, but we don’t have a policy for outdoor music,” she said. “It would be great if we did, and I’m wondering if you might consider tabling this application until such time that a town policy for outdoor music, outdoor entertainment is created for both business and residential zones, taking in consideration input from all our various villages.”
Ms. Lichter said the policy created for Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery might be a starting point. This policy states background music must be kept at a volume where customers can easily speak over it. If a neighbor complains, the volume would immediately be reduced to an acceptable level.
Adrian C.J. Dufresne of Lucerne Avenue said the amplification of music should not be allowed at the restaurant.
“Amplification is only to attract attention,” Mr. Dufresne said. “It is not to get the attention of people enjoying a drink or having something to eat.”
He said if a license is granted, it should be revoked if a neighbor complains.
David Buzanoski of Lucerne Avenue, co-president of the Falmouth Heights-Maravista Neighborhood Association, said his primary concern is preserving and improving the residential character of the neighborhood.
“I personally enjoy the Black Dog,” Mr. Buzanoski said. “I frequent it often when I have my family in town. The idea of entertainment, per se, is not adverse to our thinking, and we certainly don’t want to discourage people from attracting the younger generation to stay in Falmouth. The real issue, as far as I’m concerned, is the imposition on our abutters and our close proximity [to] loud music. It is not even the entertainment aspect. It is volume more than anything else, as far as I’m concerned, and there should be a solution to that.”
He added that the Black Dog Heights Cafe is seeking an annual license, not a seasonal license. While the cafe is currently closed for the season, this license would hypothetically allow the restaurant to host musicians on the premises four days a week, every week of the year.
Representatives from the Black Dog Tavern Co. said the restaurant intends to be a good neighbor.
“The license itself is not designed to become a nightclub or an establishment like that,” attorney Brian Beaton of the Black Dog Tavern Co. said. “The cafe itself is a family-friendly establishment. Actually, I would even suggest it’s a family-focused type establishment and the idea is to provide some type of music. It would not be a band playing late into the evening.”
Mr. Beaton said he expected the music would be played from noon to 7 or 8 PM on weekends. The increased hours on the license allow for flexibility in booking performers.
“It would be really in tune with, and something we think would be complementary, to what we run in the summer,” he said.
Selectman Douglas H. Jones noted that, if the board grants a license that allows for entertainment from 11 AM to 9 PM from Friday to Monday, the Black Dog Heights Cafe could have music during those hours.
“I don’t want to create a false sense of expectation that it will happen every day,” Mr. Beaton said.
Board members also asked if the music would be amplified. He said it likely would be.
“The practical answer is in terms of the folks we would like to have perform,” Mr. Beaton said. “Most use some sort of amplification.”
He said the intent is not to play music at an excessive level. Selectman Samuel H. Patterson noted that it is a judgment call.
“My concern is whoever is here and their judgment of what is excessive,” Mr. Patterson said. “Teenagers have a different sense of what is too loud.”
With the music being performed outdoors, Selectman Douglas C. Brown said, he was concerned it would carry into the nearby neighborhood.
“It is such a tightly packed residential area,” Mr. Brown said. “You have condominiums across the street and houses all around you, so it seems like a bad idea.”
Ms. English Braga added that the cafe is near the water, and music carries differently near water. Past history at the site exacerbates matters.
“We had a lot of issues with the establishment there previously,” she said. “It was pretty consistent with people coming before this board to complain.”
Selectmen took no vote on the entertainment licenses on Monday. The matter was continued until the board’s March 23 meeting.