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Move to stifle noise in San Antonio frustrates owner of gastropub

SAN ANTONIO — Curtis Beebe sat frustrated at his bar, just a stone's throw from City Hall, contemplating how his relationship with the City Commission had turned so bad so quickly.

It was 9 o'clock Tuesday night, just after the City Commission's monthly meeting, during which the main focus had been tweaking a new noise ordinance the city is poised to pass.

The meeting came on the heels of a workshop Monday where commissioners also spent the evening hashing out details of the ordinance, which Beebe says will effectively shut down any live music except for maybe acoustic guitars at his high-end craft beer gastropub, Local Public House and Provisions, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Both meetings led residents to cram San Antonio's tiny City Hall, where they heard details of the proposed ordinance, which would impose stiff penalties on the source of "any unreasonably loud or raucous noise." The ordinance proposes to crack down on noise produced by a variety of sources — instruments, amplifiers, generators, persistent honking of vehicle horns, burglar alarms, stereos and public address systems.

But what troubles Beebe is the part of the ordinance that states that a violation occurs in a commercial zone if sound is plainly audible within a certain number of feet from a property line. Thus far, commissioners have settled on 100 feet.

"I'm not sure there is anywhere in this little town where you can't hear something from 100 feet away," he said as he sat at his bar, which has been open a little more than a year.

Beebe, who with his wife, Rebecca, also owns Pearl in the Grove, a critically acclaimed restaurant near Dade City, believes that while the ordinance touches on numerous sources of noise, it was spurred by a small number of people who have complained about his restaurant's outdoor music, which he says he shuts down promptly at 9 p.m.

"What upsets me is that I have not heard anything from anybody personally from the city or from the public," Beebe said. "I have said at the meetings several times that I want to work with anyone who has a problem with what I'm doing to solve it."

On both Monday and Tuesday, Beebe made that argument to the commission, setting off contentious back-and-forth encounters with Commissioner Roy Pierce, who shot back that Beebe knew full well that complaints were mounting, as he had attended several previous meetings where noise was discussed. Pierce said Beebe had been given every opportunity to turn down the music.

"Please don't lie to us because it's not polite," Pierce told Beebe.

Beebe also sparred with resident and former Commissioner Will Plazewski, who presented a 49-signature petition in support of the ordinance.

Plazewski told the Times he lives close to the Local Public House and that the live music has affected his quality of life, especially loud outdoor sessions on the restaurant's patio.

"All he needs to do is bring it inside or turn it down, and I don't think there would be a problem," he said.

While the debate continues, the proposed ordinance is still in draft form. It is expected to be presented to the commission on first reading Sept. 23.

In the meantime, Beebe said he is not sure how much fight he has left in him.

"I don't want to waste all my emotional energy on this; I want to run a business," he said. "I want to be a good neighbor, but, being as I was just called a liar by a sitting member of city government, yes, it's frustrating."