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Clubs may have to turn down volume

If a consultant's report is any indication, the ear-ringing thump of Seventh Avenue's popular nightclubs is about to get turned down a notch. Maybe several.

Gainesville-based Siebein Associates is recommending the violation threshold be reduced from 85 decibels to 75. It also says city inspectors should measure noise from the property line, not the middle of the street, as they now do.

Some clubs and bars are already told routinely to turn it down.

Can they survive even stricter rules?

Vince Pardo says yes. The executive director of the Ybor City Development Corp., which commissioned the report, called the proposed changes "dramatic" but reasonable. They're needed, he said, if Ybor is going to continue to attract a diverse crowd.

"They can live with it," he said of the clubs. "Will it be easy? No."

Club owners are already gearing for battle.

"Yes, it's going to hurt," said Kathleen Bambery, general manager of Green Iguana, which features live music seven nights a week.

The city approved the Iguana nine years ago, knowing the building has a "Key West, open-door style," Bambery said. "Now they're trying to knock us off at the knees? I'm real confused."

The city hired Siebein last summer to monitor noise on Seventh Avenue and assess Ybor's 1999 ordinance. Pardo released the consultant's report last week.

The recommendations are not set in stone.

Within a few weeks, an Ybor noise committee will hear the report and hold at least one community meeting to gather input.

Then the group will pitch recommendations to City Council, which must hold a public hearing before making any changes to the current ordinance.

Along the way, the city might consider grace periods for some clubs to comply and grandfather provisions for others, Pardo said.

The current ordinance was forged after residents and businesses complained about music loud enough to rattle chandeliers and deep-six a deep sleep.

But the complaints did not cease.

One resident told The Times last year that the noise rattles the dust off his blinds. Business owners say bass vibrations are so loud, mortar is crumbling off historic buildings.

Police in Ybor are among those demanding the music be toned down.

They worry about long-term effects on their ear drums. They also fear that in emergencies, they won't be able to hear their radios _ or cries for help from other officers.

The consultants found no evidence of structural damage. But they said the police are right.

Officers on Seventh Avenue are routinely exposed to more than 90 decibels, which exceeds federal safety standards. And they often can't talk to each other if they are more than three feet apart, the report says.

Siebein found noise on Seventh Avenue routinely reaches 85, 90 and 95 decibels.

Among other changes, the report recommends:

+ Bass levels be monitored.

+ Inspectors conceal noise meters and wear civilian clothes.

+ The city consider whether any more outdoor clubs should be allowed.

+ The city consider limiting noise inside the clubs.

Siebein representatives are scheduled to meet with club owners Tuesday to discuss ways to minimize noise.

They can expect an earful.

_ Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matussptimes.com.

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