HARWICH PORT — The selectmen have issued a disciplinary action against Perks Coffee Shop and Beer Garden in Harwich Port for violating its entertainment license. Selectmen supported a recommendation made by Town Administrator Christopher Clark to suspend the weekday license for one day next June.
The suspension is related to two violations on Aug. 19 at the establishment along Route 28 in the center of the village. Clark was charged by selectmen with conducting a hearing on the complaints identified as two incidents of noise clearly audible from greater than 150 feet.
“I further recommend that the disciplinary letter issued to Perks should indicate that the board recognizes that they previously issued a warning letter to Perks in 2016 and that the board intends to follow a progressive course of discipline, if needed, up to and including revocation of entertainment license and/or liquor license for future violations,” Clark's recommendation stated.
Over the past few years, as some restaurants in the village have expanded to outside settings featuring live music, selectmen have sought to contain the volume and time at whuch music can be played. For several years they wrestled with the impact of music from the Claddagh Inn in West Harwich, holding several hearings to contain music wafting into surrounding neighborhoods.
But the focus has now shifted to Harwich Port, where music is played outside at various restaurants. Selectmen heard the complaints of neighbors over music emanating from restaurants the summer before last and took steps to put in place new regulations curtailing the time music could be played and the distance at which it could be heard from the premises.
Music in the village is not an unusual occurrence. The chamber of commerce and local businesses have been sponsoring what is now known as Port Summer Nights, a music festival on Wednesday nights during the summer months. As many as five bands are located on various business properties throughout the village, many playing amplified music from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Perks was initially cited for a noise complaint on Wednesday, July 5. That was a Port Summer Nights festival evening, but the police pointed out that the complaint came in after 9 p.m., outside the time frame for the chamber-sponsored event. Lt. Kevin Considine issued a warning to Perks manager Taylor Powell cautioning that any further complaints would be reported to selectmen.
According to the minutes of the disciplinary hearing, officer Tegan DeBaggis responded to a complaint from a homeowner of very loud music early in the evening of Aug. 19, but the home was well inside the 150-foot plainly audible distance allowed in the regulation. Inside the house, the minutes state that the music could be heard slightly.
But Sgt. Paul Boorack, who also responded, reported hearing the music farther up Sea Street at a distance greater than 150 feet. Officer DeBaggis asked employees at Perks to turn the music down and they did. DeBaggis stated there was another call around 9 p.m. from the neighbor reporting that the music had been turned up once again. She visited Perks and requested the music be turned down again. They did so.
Attorney Matthew Fitzsimmons, representing Perks, questioned whether the officers examined the potential for that music to be coming from the adjacent Port restaurant, which also had outside music that evening. But DeBaggis stated in the minutes that it was “apparent it was from Perks.”
When deliberating the disciplinary action with Police Chief David Guillimette, Clark agreed not to suspend the entertainment license in the busy July or August period and settled on a one-day suspension on June 18, a Monday, considered a slow business day.
The minutes cite a comment by the police chief that “the problem is not going to go away and it is directly related to outside entertainment.”
A few weeks ago, the board received a letter from William Vranos, a Sea Street resident, stating that the Port restaurant and Perks were competing with each other with amplified music. Vranos stated he hears amplified music from both businesses, but complains only when the music continues past the time set by selectmen; he was not aware of the provision that prohibits entertainment being audible 150 feet from its source.
“The 150-foot rule is broken every night,” Vranos stated in the letter. “At the very least, amplifiers should be banned. One hundred and fifty feet is not far. An acoustic performance can certainly be heard at 50 yards...The stop times and noise limits need to be strictly enforced and real punishments, not warnings, need to be given out.”
The Port restaurant has not been cited for entertainment violations since a new entertainment license allowing outside music was issued to the establishment in May.
However, both businesses received notification last week that they are pushing the boundaries of where they are allowed to serve alcohol. That determination was made upon a visit to the locations by Clark and Building Commissioner Raymond Chesley.
The letters also states: “In order to serve on these extended premises, you must apply and be approved for an Alteration of Premises to your liquor license which requires abutter notification, legal advertising and public hearing, as well as approval by the board of selectmen and Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.”