New debate over noise levels in downtown Sarasota

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SARASOTA, FL. - There is a noise debate happening in downtown Sarasota over amplified music at outdoor restaurants.

A city code states that no amplified music is permitted in outdoor seating areas, but some business owners feel that city code is hurting the community more than helping it.

Sarasota restaurant owners and operators received a letter from the city of Sarasota at the beginning of the month as a result of numerous complaints. It reminds business owners that if they don't comply with the rules they will get a visit from the police.

Some of our local business owners told us how they feel about the recent enforcement.

John Snyder is the co-owner of Star Keeper Café, and he says he loves to feature local talent at his restaurant. “We do 2 nights a week, Monday night, Thursday night, and then 2 Saturdays night’s a month. Kind of look around, we've got outside seating, you're under the stars, you're in beautiful Sarasota. What more can you ask for?”

Well, how about a change to the city ordinance when it comes to hosting musicians and entertainers on his patio? “It's a confusing thing, but zoning allows no outside amplified music to outside cafes and bars and restaurants,” says Snyder.

The city of Sarasota sent out a letter as a result of numerous complaints regarding amplified music in this sort of setting reminding business owners that they can have a guitar player at your venue, but they cannot plug into an amplifier without violating the code. “The decimal readings are more than fair right now. I think the hours are more than fair now. It needs to be measured from inside a person’s home. They're in a city, they're not in Green Acres out in the country,” says Snyder.

Some business owners are now teaming up to come up with a plan to address, not just this issue, but the many others that have developed when it comes to entertainment all across the downtown district. “The problem with having a very kind of bi-polar sound ordinance is it doesn't protect the residents and it certainly doesn't help the restaurants grow and prosper, so that's one of the reasons why we're behind creating a new sound ordinance that makes sense,” says Rich Swier Jr., founder of HuB.

They want one that keeps the local economy flourishing and even food on the table for some. “We have a huge creative class here of musicians, artists, that depend on these venues to supply their lively income,” says Swier.

Because it's Presidents Day, we were not able to sit down with any members of the city of Sarasota about this issue.

If others want to actively get involved in any of the issues regarding noise ordinances downtown, they should contact their local city commissioners or attend one of the public meetings to get their thoughts heard.