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Noise case goes to court

For months, restaurateurs David Sockol and Mike Roberts have tried to muffle the sound of the live music coming from the outdoor patio of Fresco's Waterfront Bistro.

They spent $5,000 to put up walls in an effort to soundproof the patio area and shortened the sets of music acts.

But the Downtown Residents Civic Association, a citizens group representing members of several tenant associations, hopes the restaurant at 300 Second Ave. NE will be convicted of four noise ordinance violations.

The complaints, which span April through September, will be the focus of a trial today in Pinellas County court.

"We've got people who have to take sleeping medication in order to sleep," said Donald Jenkins, the residents group's treasurer.

The trial reflects a stalemate between competing visions for downtown, Sockol said. One side wants to preserve the city's past, and the other, its future, he said.

He said St. Petersburg is "no longer the quiet little downtown where you go to retire."

But for Jenkins and his group, the trial is about obeying the law.

Sockol and Roberts face four counts of noise ordinance violations stemming from complaints from residents of the city marina, which abuts the restaurant's "dock and dine patio" at the marina's northwest end.

Noise violations carry a maximum $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Fresco's was acquitted of two noise ordinance violations last year.

Paul Barbour, president of the Old Bayside Neighborhood and Marina Association, likened the noise to that from an expensive car stereo "parked right outside your window."

Lawyer John Trevena, who represented the restaurant in the previous trials, said today's case is "driven by the elderly population of condo towers." Trevena called the noise from city-sponsored events such as Ribfest "incredibly louder than anything to come out of Fresco's."

A city code noise violation involves a "loud and raucous" sound that "annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivity." Amplified sound must be kept below 60 decibels after 11 p.m. on weeknights and after midnight on weekends.

Casey Cora can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or ccora@sptimes.com.

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