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Kumbaya Between Sunnyland/Twin Sisters Brewing Company Done As Music Is Shut Down

By On
• In Bellingham,

Music at the grand opening of the Twin Sisters Brewing Company was shut down on Saturday evening around 9 p.m., 25 August, after noise complaints began arriving at the 911 call center as early as 6:12 p.m. An eyewitness to the shutdown order by the police said the officer warned the owner to turn down the music several times but evidently, when that did not happen, police gave the order to stop the music completely. Similarly, complaints to 911 about illegal parking near the brewery began around 4:30 p.m. One resident told me the brewery owner was in the street telling the police not to ticket the illegally parked vehicles because they were his customers.

At a meeting last Thursday evening, 23 August, between Sunnyland residents and the brewery management, city officials promised that noise and parking ordinances would be enforced. Police officers attending that meeting suggested many times that residents should call 911 if there was a problem. [You can read Dave Gallagher’s upbeat account of that meeting in the Herald here.] It appears the city was good for its word. Unfortunately, attempts by the brewery owner to sing kumbaya by hosting the meeting with the neighbors proved the undoing of opening night festivities. To wit from the Bellingham Police activity log:

Reported: Aug 25 2018 6:12PM

Location: 500 BLK CAROLINA ST

Offense: NOISE ORDINANCE

Case #: 18B50552

Officers responded to a noise compliant.

The plan, according to management, was to place the musicians outside on the small terrace that overlooks the open courtyard where there are picnic tables and a children’s play area. [I wonder if the owner has adequate insurance to cover this playground portion of the brewery.] None of the musical groups I have seen around town play without amplification and this situation proved no different. I have witnessed various groups performing in the streets as part of the downtown “revival” movement. The volume is literally deafening. What this music shutdown will mean in terms of livability for the homeowners near Twin Sisters brewery remains to be seen.

To recap last Thursday’s meeting, about 100 Sunnyland Neighborhood residents showed up at the new Twin Sisters Brewing Company and restaurant at the corner of Grant and North Carolina Streets on the southern periphery of the neighborhood. The brewery had been open (soft opening) for several weeks by then and already the crowds were substantial as was the parking demand and the traffic volume. Noise had already been an issue for some who live directly across the streets from this eatery, however, the introduction of live music in the restaurant’s immense outdoor courtyard during the brewery’s official opening this past Saturday brought on the real complaints with concomitant enforcement of the ordinances.

About six months ago, I wrote about the impending opening of this establishment in an article entitled, “Just What Bellingham Needs - Another Brewery - And Amid Single Family Homes.” Much of what I identified as being problematic with the brewery has now come to pass and residents reacted as city officials had advised. Residents did not have the opportunity to voice their concerns prior to permits being granted on this activity since Bellingham code places this restaurant as a permitted use in that zone. Permitted uses fall under a Type I Process and do not require notification or input from adjacent property owners (BMC 21.10.100 Type I process – Minor administrative decisions.)

It is unclear who actually conceived of, and then set up the meeting, but it seems to have been an agreement between the Sunnyland Neighborhood Association and the owner of the brewery. Also attending were representatives of the city’s police, as well as representatives from the Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department and the Bellingham Public Works Department. It was their role to explain the various laws and codes that cover such issues as noise, traffic, and parking. Rick Sepler, the planning director, opined that in his experience the opening of these establishments usually creates a rush of interest and attendant problems but that after a month or so, the problems become less and less of an issue. Perhaps. But that was no comfort to the neighbors Saturday night.

Be nice sign
Be nice sign

To be honest, some attending the Thursday meeting were actually happy to have the brewery in their neighborhood, but they were distinctly in the minority as dozens lined up to speak and ask questions about noise, traffic and parking. The happy group may live to rue their statements given Saturday’s ticketing of cars and the music turned off. All these predictable concerns were ignored by the city up front, as they chose process over common sense. The owner did announce that he had added some material to insulate the constant noise from the building’s air conditioning unit. He had also placed signs around the neighborhood regarding parking and good behavior, however, to think that outdoor music would not violate the city’s noise ordinance is risible as the noise from the live music proved intolerable. Even indoor during the winter, such music will produce bass vibrations that will carry outside of the building and into neighboring homes. The police said they would respond to noise complaints and this time they did as they had promised the residents. Time will tell if equally aggressive enforcement holds in the future.

About Dick Conoboy

Writer • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Tim Paxton

Aug 27, 2018

Good report on this travesty.     The City attorney and planning have nothing but contempt for residents and voters.  All permits should never allowed to  be challenged by the public according to them.  Notification is also waste of their precious time.  

In 2014 the City repealed its minimal parking ordinance which would have required probably 200+ parking spaces on site.  Twins has 32 parking spaces or so.    The nearby neighbors basically had their on street parking usage for themselves and guests swept away for one greedy brewery owner.  Were bribes paid to Planning / Council?   Add the noise, drunk drivers near 3 schools, light pollution, drunk strangers wandering around the neighborhood.  What a fine idea!

The brewery put up helpful signs directing the 10,000 visitors from the first week to be sure to go park in front of nearby residential homes, so their owners could be sure to no longer find parking near their own homes as they get off work at 5pm.

Any public meeting hosted by the criminals involved was only set up to dissuade, confuse and defuse the neighbors.  Clues are facilitators, armed police, bull shitting city employees, cheerleading brewery employees showing up, limited public notice, etc.    It is obvious that no “ample on street parking” was available to planning.  Their claim that everyone will walk and/or bike went out the window pretty fast based on actual evidence on the street.

 Notice that the Cowards on City Council including D. Hammill who lives only two blocks away were no shows at this meeting.    Also, CDI Signs (same owner) down the street, use city sidewalks for its parking and has repurposed its orignal parking area into  outdoor storage pushing most of its employees out onto nearby streets.  No enforcement by Police here.

I predict this isn’t over.

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Dick Conoboy

Aug 27, 2018

Thanks, Tim.  I believe that your prediction will prove true.

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