Twin Sisters Brewery - It Is Not Getting Better For The Neighbors

Light pollution and special events seem to be the new normal at the Twin Sisters Brewery

Light pollution and special events seem to be the new normal at the Twin Sisters Brewery


Instead of nuisance abatement at the site of the Twin Sisters Brewery in the Sunnyland neighborhood, the owners have now upped the ante with the installation of enormous illuminated lettering that looms over not only the brewery’s outdoor courtyard but the single family residences along Grant St. Imagine having your home superilluminated by such signage, which, according to the city, is perfectly legal. From the planning department comes this, “Sign permits do not require public notice and it meets the adopted municipal code standards for signs in industrial zones.”

On the other hand, the brewery management is apparently on a campaign to make nice with the rest of the city (and especially with the police department) by notifying them of extravaganzas such as a planned “charity” event that was to have taken place on October 8th with a crowd of 400 expected. This came from the brewery owner to the police chief the day of the event:

“Hello Everyone,

I wanted to give you a heads up we are doing a large charity event for Super Feet today in our beer garden with 400 people attending. They are giving back to their charities they support in a big way via this event. We have secured additional parking at the catholic [sic] church, but it will be a larger than normal crowd for a Monday. Plus, we are having (non amped) live music (like our Jazz Trio on Sundays) on the loading dock, but I am sure we will get some complaints. I wanted to give you a heads up in case you were asked a questions.

If you have any additional questions, please let me know!

Thanks for all your help!

I understand that the event did not gather nearly 400 people, however, this email from the brewery is illustrative of a phenomenon I noticed with local students over the past decade and a half. Having been told by the university as part of a “good neighbor” policy to notify neighbors near their rental housing when the students were planning to have a party, the students did so. Unfortunately, the students thought that this prior notification to their neighbors served to absolve them of responsibility to keep the party quiet. In that vein, another email from the brewery’s manager of marketing to the police department stated:

“I’m the marketing manager for Twin Sisters Brewing Co. We are working with the Sunnyland PTA to put on a ‘Halloween Hootenanny’ here at our restaurant in the Sunnyland neighborhood, and the proceeds will benefit the PTA fund. I’m reaching out to see if you or anyone from the Bellingham Police Department would be interested in having a “Safety Station” at our event, which will run from 5p – 8p at Twin Sisters.

Description of the Event:

Twin Sisters Brewing Co. will be the neighborhood destination for trick-or-treaters of all ages to enjoy a safe and fun-filled Halloween night. Fall and Halloween-themed décor will provide the perfect setting for an evening of games, activities, prizes, and of course candy. Admission to the event will be free, and all donations will go to benefit the Sunnyland PTA for all the fantastic programs they support, and a percentage of the evening’s proceeds will also be donated. Halloweeners of all ages are welcome, as are their furry friends. Twin Sisters will be setup with activity stations scattered around the property. There will also be live music, a miniature corn maze, costume contest, and much more! The event starts at 5p, and the children’s activities will finish at 8p. The restaurant will remain open until our normal closing time of 10p.

Would you have the availability and resources to attend? You can reach me via email or on my cell at 630-442-9402 and I’d be happy to discuss it in more detail.”

By inviting the police to mount a “safety station” (whatever that is), does the brewery think the police presence will signal an “approval” of all that takes place? Again, the brewery plans live music. Might I remind readers that the live music brought to the neighborhood on August 25th was shut down by police as a violation of the noise ordinance. [ Kumbaya Between Sunnyland/Twin Sisters Brewing Company Done As Music Is Shut Down]

Even more bands for musical events are being sought by the brewery’s marketing staff. This was posted by the marketing manager, Greg Zimmerman, on the Facebook page of Whatcom County Musicians and Friends:

“We’re going to have lots of live music in the future, so I’ll keep everyone in mind. So weird being on the booking side of things; I’m usually the one trying to get my group in the door!”

“The venue is a local brewery. The stage is outdoors and is covered.”

Also being forgotten here is a revised noise ordinance that was put into place several years ago in recognition of an allowance for entertainment venues. The revised code allowed for such establishments in clearly designated “entertainment districts” in downtown Bellingham and in Fairhaven. These districts did not include single family, multi-family or industrial zones located outside the designated areas.

Where is the Sunnyland Neighborhood Association as all this goes on? I asked the president of the neighborhood association about its involvement and received this reply: “ is the policy of our board not to take a position on specific issues, rather, we act as a conduit for information and as a resource to foster participation in public input processes related to development, codes and other issues which impact the quality of life in the neighborhood.” The problem is that conduits carry all sorts of stuff, such as potable water and effluvia. Without neighborhood associations going to bat for homeowners, city hall will essentially have its way. However, this hands-off attitude from a neighborhood association should be no surprise since the neighborhoods now realize that they have been marginalized by our city government for the past 6-7 years, notably with the Mayors Neighborhood Advisory Commission which was removed from the zoning and land use process. Neighborhood plans have been abandoned by the city as none has been updated in the last 9 or so years.

The presence of this out-sized and ill-placed establishment is already creating rifts within the Sunnyland neighborhood as, I am told, bitter squabbles are breaking out on a closed Sunnyland Neighborhood group on Facebook. Unfortunately, the public, not to mention the actual residents of Sunnyland who might not be on Facebook or not even have a computer, cannot see what is happening.

Bad weather in the offing may temper the nuisance factor of this brewery, however, come spring the neighborhood will face a renewed onslaught from revelers and music makers. And so it goes in Bellingham…tiddly-pom.

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About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • 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

David Donohue

Oct 24, 2018

Since this article came out, the jig is up.  Twin Sisters is directly advertising to violate the noise ordinance and use halloween revelers to cover their malfeasance.   They should include that they are making war on their neighbors in these announcements, and that the neighbors won’t be lying down and taking it.


Tim Paxton

Oct 27, 2018

Everyone leaving this venue is either half drunk or fully drunk.   Where is the DUI patrol?   Who wants hundreds of drunks driving through their neighborhood at all hours? 

Only one reason to go the Beer Garden!  Drink, drink, drink.     Drunk, drunk, drunk drivers.  BPD should be opening a neighborhood DUI station on site.

Q: Can businesses use an alley as their main driveway?   Beeeer Garden does.

 It would  be nice if the Bellingham Police would respond to  911 reports of cars driving on side walks, parking on side walks,  blocking pedestrians, etc.  Violations of the ADA.     No ramps, no curbs. signage, crossing lights missing.   

The continual and random  noise, unshielded lights, garish signs, garbage and general denial of quiet  enjoyment of people in their own property and homes continues and expands.   

Denial of property rights under color of law opens City Staff  and admin to many Federal law liabilities.  Denial of due process is another area that opens City tax payers to liability thanks to Staff and Administration.

Is this the new City Council Policy?  Pimping out Bellingham neighborhoods to the highest bidder?  Sunnyland’s Council member appears to be AWOL on this issue.  

Beer Garden is like one big nightmare Frat party going on every night in  Sunnyland.  It appears the application for the permit was falsified if they did not list their cool idea of loud,  outdoor bands almost every night as an entertainment venue. 

The incompetent City Staff “forgot” to anticipate 10,000 extra car trips/visitors per week during the soft opening.   Imagine Halloween night!  There is no ample parking on or off site.   There was no due process and the permit should be yanked based on the apparent lying on the application.

Other Bellingham neighborhoods should be alarmed.  Your neighborhood is next.



John Hatten

Oct 27, 2018

Thank you David for the link to their Facebook page. Their public perspective as laid out on Facebook is that they take the neighbor’s concerns seriously and are actively working to mitigate their concerns:

October 24 at 10:29 AM

“We too are really excited to get our live music program up and running after taking a hiatus to address concerns related to noise levels. We are and will remain committed to developing a great relationship with our immediate neighbors and the whole of the Sunnyland neighborhood.

“We have extensively analyzed the best way to provide great local live music for our guests while mitigating the effects on our residential neighborhood. For this effort, we have constructed a new awning that is positioned to project sound to the south industrial park area and away from the grant street houses next to us. This awning will also have sound-dampening curtains on three sides, further reducing noise projected to the residential area. We have also added some 300 straw bales positioned along the fence on the Grant St. side to dampen sound and vibration from leaving our property.

“Live music will not go past 10p, and currently, we plan to only have live music on weekend nights and holidays, with the exception of our Halloween PTA fundraiser. Thank you all for your continued patience while we work all this out!”

If what they are saying is true, then it seems like they are working to mitigate sound issues. Yea! But there are other concerns being raised like the huge impact of added traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood AND increased alcohol impared drivers in the neighborhood. I’m not sure whether Bellingham Police Department is willing to keep a tight leash on the Beer Garden until things settle a bit, but it sure seems like there are neighbors who are seeing and hearing things that lead them to believe that their needs aren’t being considered.

I love live music (I’m a musician), and I love that Bellingham has zones where loud music is allowed on occasion. And I think that there should be times where people can play music in residential neighborhoods without  having the police showing up to shut them down. Would it be reasonable to be playing music with friends in the back yard with frinds until 8 PM? 9 PM? 10 PM? But if I were working nights and found ear plugs too uncomfortable, would I have to be subjected to someone elses music that is keeping me up?

I don’t have answers, but I would like to be living in a community where people are willing to listen to each other and be willing to give and take. Just because someone has invested a lot of money into a business doent give them a right to drive neighbors crazy, and just because a neighbor is driven crazy, doesn’t necessarily mean that someone shouldn’t be allowed to play music.

All my best wishes to the Sunnyland neighborhood, and to any other neighborhood impacted by growth in our city


Dick Conoboy

Oct 28, 2018


Thanks for taking time to comment.  I was at the TS site last night (Friday, 27 Oct) on the Grant St sidewalk in front of the homes directly opposity the establishment’s beer garden.  The band noise was very, very loud with the base beats that constantly went thunka, thunka, thunka.  The noise level from the “conversations” was high.  The traffic was considerable and available parking within several blocks of the place was non-existent.   So any traffic, noise or parking abatement was just not working.  Moreover, the place was filled to capacity as the rain was coming down in the cold night air.  Had the weather been clement, we would be talking about yet another degree of nuisance.

If you go back to my original article on the brewery last February, you will see that even before the renovations began, neither the city nor the brewery did any outreach to the neighborhood except tell the local homowners that all was being done according to code.  I wrote back then:

“The residents will ... face a death by a thousand cuts as nightly disturbances seep into their lives eliminating anything having to do with quiet enjoyment. This will be a “drip, drip, drip” process of families tortured by people who do not live in the neighborhood but treat it as if it was their living room and, at times, a toilet. A code complaint form is nothing more than a bureaucratic nostrum equivalent to warm milk and cookies… “take two and call me in the morning”.  The well being of the residents in their homes should be the number one priority for the city in an upfront process and not as an afterthought when it is too late to mitigate and the damage has been done. These residents deserve to be heard and to confront directly the planners and the brewery owner(s).”

So what we see now is not so surprising and the residents deal with the aftermath that the owners are playing to make it look like they care.


David Donohue

Nov 03, 2018


It’s sad you venture to opine on this without really understanding what’s happening.  Truly a bother that you would dismiss me out of hand after knowing me so long.    It’s sad this town has slid into the sort of narcissism that can overlook and support such abuse.

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