FOOD- THE DISH- Sound bites: Have Belmont fooderies gotten too noisy?
La Taza owner Melissa Easter says that neighbors complaining about the music at her Belmont restaurant are "getting worked up over something that really isn't a big deal."
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER
Recently, Dish caught wind of a spat brewing over the live music from La Taza and Saxx Jazz Club that has been riding the wind in downtown Belmont.
Apparently, some neighbors have complained that outdoor music from the two venues has been disturbing their once-tranquil precincts. Already on edge over the Pavilion noise, which the neighborhood has been complaining about ever since the white sails were unfurled across the Belmont bridge, the Belmonters have a new reason to be riled as the neighborhood's success at attracting eateries is causing some growing pains.
While neighbors says they hope to resolve the issue among themselves, City Councilors Kevin Lynch, Dave Norris, and Julian Taliaferro have already weighed in, promising to help resolve the issue if it should become a problem. In fact, Lynch informed neighbors that he believes the City noise ordinance could be changed if necessary.
"I don't think Downtown Belmont is a good place for a raucous band or crowd," says Lynch.
If La Taza cannot work things out with the neighbors, Lynch suggests there could be a separate designation within the noise ordinance for a Downtown Belmont district, just like there is for the Downtown business district, but warns that such legislative solutions tend not to satisfy everyone.
"I believe it would be much easier for all concerned for La Taza to simply act more neighborly," says Lynch. On the other hand, some folks in the neighborhood say the residents should be held to the same standard.
"All of this is just a chain of events that started with the revamping of the Pavilion and the types of noisy bands they now are bringing in," says Belmont resident Allison Ruffner, who worries Belmont is becoming a "party hood." Ruffner says "juke joints" like Saxx belong "out in fields down by the river."
"Places like La Taza just wanted to jump onto the bandwagon, literally," says Ruffner. "This has raised the noise levels considerably."
While La Taza owner Melissa Easter admits that several shows may have been too loud ("I would have been annoyed, too," she says), she thinks that the complainers may be exaggerating the problem.
"I think they're getting worked up over something that really isn't a big deal," she says, pointing out that there's no music on week days, and that music ends at 9:30pm on weekends. In addition, she says she really doesn't have a lot of music lined up, and of the acts she has scheduled, people in the neighborhood have by and large "enjoyed the music from their front porches." Still, she says she'll be writing a letter to the neighbors to address their concerns.
Belmont resident and realtor John Sweet says that Easter has shown "nothing but good faith in this discussion," and expects La Taza, Saxx, and the neighborhood to work things out peaceably.
One Belmont resident pointed out that although the buildings may be commercial, their conversion to music venues for outdoor concerts is painfully novel.
"The real problem is the sort of environment you create when you start bringing in amplified bands, and having live concerts and night clubs abutting old residential neighborhoods," says Ruffner. "Do you really think someone wants a concert in their backyard every weekend, as well as the loud voices, screeching cars, and other associated noise? Because that's what is starting to go on increasingly."
While Sweet welcomes the spirited discussion over the music at La Taza and Saxx, he says the real noise problem is still coming from the Pavilion. In fact, Sweet says the neighborhood feels the noise problem is even worse than it was last year, when they were told the completed Transit Center would help solve the problem.
"They put us off last year forever promising that the Transit Center would make the noise better," he says, "but it just bounces it around. I love the Pavilion, but I wouldn't live on the 600 block of Hinton avenue if you gave me the house for free."