East Sixth Bar Squaring Off With Neighbors
Changes made to the Austin’s sound ordinance in February are now playing out around a bar on East Sixth Street.
The new rules tighten up the hours for outdoor music venues within 600 feet of homes. Now, tensions are simmering between a bar called Cheer Up Charlies and neighbors who have long complained about the bar’s late-night music. And it could have implications for other bars located near homes.
Owner Tamara Hoover describes Cheer Up Charlies as more than just a bar.
“It’s actually a community project,” Hoover said. “People from the community coming in, bringing their acts, bringing their music, bringing in their charities, and it’s everybody’s home.”
But recently, the bar has received complaints from another nearby community, the Guadalupe Association for an Improved Neighborhood. John Plyler, who lives about 450 feet from Cheer Up Charlies, is the vice president of the neighborhood association.
“I don’t want their music coming into my house,” Plyler said. “I’d like to be able to go to sleep without having to hear their music. Or wake up and not be able to go back to sleep because of their music.”
Plyler says it was never about the music being too loud. It was being played too late. And then, when Cheer Up Charlies renewed its permit last week, the new rules took effect.
The revised ordinance requires bars within 600 feet of a home to stop playing amplified music outside at 10 p.m. on weekends. That cutoff used to be 11:30 p.m. The cutoff during the week is now 8 p.m., moved up from 10 p.m.
“There is a significant number of noise complaints on Cheer Up Charlies, primarily because they’ve gone past the cutoff time repeatedly,” said Don Pitts, the city’s music program manager. “So the only option that we have as staff that is left is an agreement between the owner and the neighborhood associations that are affected.”
Pitts says that’s what they tried to do last week. The Austin Music Commission met with both parties to talk about the bar’s outdoor music venue permit. But Hoover couldn’t convince the neighbors to allow music outside the restricted hours.
“I feel as if the neighborhood is going a little bit above what is reasonable in this case because we’re not actually offending them with sound, we’re offending them with a visualization of us breaking a rule,” she said. “And I don’t really believe that’s how the rule is supposed to be enforced.”
Hoover says the new permit will silence her most profit-driven hours, between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., severely undercutting her revenue.
She also points out that hers is only the first in a string of bars that will be affected by the revised sound ordinance. According to the city, 14 establishments throughout Austin have already been restricted by the new rules.
“These bars are very small on the street,” she said. “So a lot of us are using our outside space. If this rule stays in place, you’ll see a lot of changes.”
Hoover and her staff are blasting Twitter with the hashtag #ACPR, for “Austin collective permit reform,” to promote their cause. Hoover also plans to appeal the new permit.
Meanwhile, Plyler says that he’s only trying to do what’s right for his neighborhood, especially elderly residents.
“I do have other neighbors that call me and ask me, what is the music? And I say, well, the music you’re hearing now is coming from Cheer Up Charlies,” he said.
Plyler says he will continue his efforts, even if Hoover’s appeal is approved.