ZEPHYRHILLS — Angry residents packed into City Hall on Monday night to complain about Cloud 9 Hookah Bar and the noise and trash they say it brings to their once quiet neighborhood.
About 60 people signed a petition alleging the bar at 5434 Seventh St. is violating the city's noise ordinance. Residents called Cloud 9 a "nuisance" and asked City Council to shut it down.
"Every Sunday there's bottles in our church parking lot," said the Rev. Douglas Fleming of Full Gospel Tabernacle. "It's a retired community. They're upsetting our neighbors and something needs to be done."
Ella Keeley said she and her elderly mother live only 30 feet from the lounge's parking lot. Partiers noisily hang out all night, she said.
"My anxiety levels are just going through the roof. … We need some help," Keeley said. "I don't feel like I'm in a place where I can rest in my home."
While neighbors have placed a flurry of 911 calls and noise complaints, officials said most of the complaints have been unfounded.
Some nights, police officers park their cruisers near the lounge to ensure the music isn't too loud, and neighbors still call about the noise. City Attorney Joseph Poblick said officials from the city's building department have measured noise levels at the lounge and they've all come back within normal levels.
"It doesn't matter to me if it's at level or not," council president Lance Smith said. "My issue is, if it's a nuisance."
"We want them out as soon as possible!" a man in the audience shouted.
Council member Tim Urban said he understands the residents' complaints, but "our hands are tied." The bar sits in a commercial zone.
Some residents questioned Cloud 9's proximity to Full Gospel Tabernacle. The city bans alcohol sales or consumption within 300 feet of a school, church or other religious institution. Residents said Cloud 9 is only 265 feet away from Full Gospel.
But city officials said the distance is measured from doorway to doorway, and using that method, the lounge's entryway is more than 300 feet from the church's front door, said City Manager Steve Spina.
The council voted unanimously to ask the owner of Cloud 9 — who also owns the parking lot next door — to place signs making that lot a tow-away zone. The goal, officials said, is to discourage people from loitering outside the club.
"I'm willing to move," the lounge's owner, Brad Gorgen, said during the meeting.
He later added: "If I had the money, I would move tonight. I don't want to make these people mad."
In other news
Utility deposits shelved: Zephyrhills City Council members dropped a proposed ordinance that would have allowed city utility customers to get their deposit refunded after two years of paying their bills on time.
The proposal was removed from Monday night's agenda. The change would have required the help of an additional full-time utility employee to process the refund requests. Council members opposed adding an extra expense to the city's already short budget.