A proposed resolution to limit amplified music at outdoor streateries was recommended to be shelved last night by the Madison Arts Commission.
The resolution would have prohibited outdoor amplified music at streateries within 100 feet of a residential dwelling.
Under Madison’s Streatery program, restaurants and certain other venues are allowed to expand seating outdoors. The program was approved by the city in June 2020, and it allowed restaurants to continue operating under public health capacity limits.
In May of this year, the city council passed a measure permitting streateries to host amplified music, allowing for more outdoor music concerts during the pandemic.
Alder Brian Benford, the sole sponsor of the resolution, represents a large part of downtown on the Madison Common Council. He says that residents who live next to streateries may be bothered by the loud performances. Benford said at yesterdays art commission meeting that some people may move next to a streatery without realizing they can also host live music.
“Here’s the difference folks, I know that that’s part of the ambiance of where I live, I made the decision. But these folks had no input,” said Benford
The new resolution comes after an incident with the Harmony Bar and Grill, a local restaurant and music venue, which recently opened their streatery on their back patio — where they host musical performances three nights a week.
But critics say the new resolution would have unfairly punished all streateries for the actions of a single restaurant.
Last night’s Art Commission meeting turned into a heated exchange between those opposing and supporting the resolution.
Harmony Bar owner Brennen Nardi says that he attempted to reach out to Alder Benford to resolve the debate weeks ago — but Benford never returned his message.
“While I think I didn’t handle the situation perfectly, I just wanted to point out that I received an email from Brian on July 22nd, I responded on July 22nd, that I would absolutely meet with the group. That week I had family in town but please let me know when and where to meet. This was on July 22nd. I never heard anything from Brian after that,” says Nardi
Speaking with WORT today, Nardi says she had never even been aware of the resolution until about a week ago.
“I was not aware of the ordinance until I received a phone call from the Wisconsin State Journal.”… “I was not given the opportunity to be aware of the ordinance or to respond or work directly with the alder and the neighbors that have concerns,” said Nardi earlier today.
Nardi also says that she understands the issues with the neighbors, but thinks it should not limit all streateries in the city.
“This is a dispute or a misunderstanding between several neighbors who have valid concerns, and the small business that is located next to them. The impact of this ordinance would be so much greater and is so unnecessary,” Nardi said at the meeting
Approximately 30 streateries would be affected by the new resolution. That’s nearly all of the streateries with an amplified music permit.
Benford says that he didn’t realize his resolution would encompass that many streateries, but he still has to think about the residents in his neighborhood.
“I didn’t know it that it impacted this many places, that never never was my intent, I want to say that as clearly as I can. But as I look at the data in that amazing presentation, I didn’t see anything about, once again, maybe it’s a two issue thing in my mind, but how do these people get peace?” asked Benford at Monday’s meeting.
Benford later took to social media himself to vent his frustrations .Benford said that at its core, citizens not having to deal with new levels of noise for the sake of economic interests is a larger issue. For example, it’s something that’s also at stake in the ongoing fight against F-35 fighter jets.
Ultimately, the commission decided that a single instance should not form new policy. A resolution to be placed on file will head to the Common Council next week.
Photo by Caught in Joy / Unsplash