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St. Petersburg and Fresco's restaurant settle contentious noise issue

Fresco’s restaurant will be limited to a 10 p.m. cutoff on outside live music with exceptions for News Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.

Special to the Times

Fresco’s restaurant will be limited to a 10 p.m. cutoff on outside live music with exceptions for News Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.

After more than two years of legal battle the city and Fresco's Ristorante have reached a settlement over noise complaints.

The restaurant at the foot of the Pier will be limited to playing live outdoor music until 10 p.m. with the exceptions of the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.

Background music audible for up to 50 feet may still be played up to closing hour.

In the past, outdoor live music had driven patrons to the restaurant and neighbors to earplugs.

"Samples showed noise levels as high as 90 decibels over 1,000 feet away from the restaurant," said Emil Pavone, president of the Downtown Residents Civic Association.

Prior to the settlement the city, Fresco's landlord, had threatened the restaurant with possible eviction at the end of the current lease, which expired April 30.

"It's not because of some grumpy folks downtown. They had a very legitimate concern and all you had to do was turn the music down, which you refused to do," Council member Leslie Curran told Fresco's managing partner David Sockol at Thursday's City Council meeting.

Now, with a settlement reached the restaurant's management and city officials expect to sign a new five-year-lease this week.

However, the lease will require yearly approval by the city depending on what officials call "a positive noise review."

Sockol, a laywer, pledged to respect the noise limits imposed. "In terms of excessive noise, we already might be one of the quietest places right now," he said of the restaurant, which specializes in seafood and Gulf Coast cuisine.

City officials promised neighbors they would still keep a close ear on the restaurant's operation.

"We understand the nature of their business, but if they violate the rules we will terminate their lease," said Mark Winn, St. Petersburg's chief assistant city attorney.

However, one yearly noise incident would be tolerated by the city.

Meanwhile, neighbors are hoping for a quiet future. "I haven't talked to our board yet, but to me the settlement makes sense," said Pavone.

Stefan Jaeger can be reached at sjaeger@sptimes.com or (727)893-8150. Staff writer Cristina Silva contributed to this report.

St. Petersburg and Fresco's restaurant settle contentious noise issue 05/09/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 4:31am]
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