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.
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.