Outdoor Music Regs Pose Problem For Orleans Officials

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Orleans news , Noise , outdoor entertainment

Officials in Orleans have run into issues with trying to craft regulations for businesses seeking licenses to host outdoor live music in town. Neighbors to the Barley Neck Inn complained this summer about music allowed on the property. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – "This is going to be a challenge," John Kelly told the select board Oct. 13.

The town administrator was referring to the trouble town officials have run into drafting regulations for outdoor entertainment licensing, specifically regarding live music.

Neighbors of the Barley Neck Inn on Beach Road have pushed back on the select board's vote in March to permit the restaurant to offer outdoor live music during the summer. Despite complaints about noise, as well as parking, stemming from the outdoor performances, the board opted in August to let the inn finish out the season last month and pledged to revisit the matter ahead of license renewals for the coming year.

Further complicating matters, premises with a liquor license are exempt from the town's noise bylaw. Kelly said town officials are looking for a way to craft regulations for outdoor music apart from the bylaw, but that they have so far been unsuccessful.

While indoor entertainment is easier to manage given the confined space, Kelly said it's harder to find objective criteria to determine if businesses that host live music outdoors are in violation of their entertainment license. Town staff would need to be trained on how to use decibel readers, Kelly said. Even then, there are challenges in determining how much noise is attributed to music over other "ambient" noise on the property. Music also needs to be measured from the property line, he added.

"We're having trouble giving the board the type of objective guidelines that you wanted in terms of saying it's a violation or it's not."

While other outdoor music events, such as the annual Tuesday night summer concerts downtown, are held annually without issue, Kelly said "amplified" music hosted at the Barley Neck Inn presents a different set of problems in terms of regulations.

As a preexisting, non-conforming property, the inn is allowed to operate in a residential area. Kelly suggested that the town's building inspector, Tom Evers, be consulted as to whether or not outdoor music at the inn furthers the non-conforming use of the property. Select board member Kevin Galligan agreed.

"When we start issuing [licenses] in January, I want his determination before we issue," he said.
There is no guarantee that the inn will return to the board to seek an outdoor entertainment license for next year, Kelly said.

Select board member Andrea Reed suggested that the board classify and regulate businesses that host outdoor music as music venues.

"It wouldn't preclude that you couldn't be an outdoor restaurant and an outdoor venue, but you would have to demonstrate that you can regulate and control where the sound is going," she said.

Galligan went a step further, suggesting that applicants seeking to host outdoor music be required to show plans for how it will comply with local regulations and minimize impacts on abutters.

"They've got to show it. Otherwise there's no way we can enforce it."

However the board ultimately decides to enforce outdoor music regulations, select board member Mark Mathison said that the town needs more entertainment options, including live music. He noted that Orleans is lagging behind neighboring towns including Harwich and Chatham in terms of what it offers for residents and visitors.

"We have to be really careful in how we balance these kinds of things to allow some kind of activity to go on in this town, and not just say 'Sorry, our residents want to go to bed early,'" he said.

Reed said the town's cultural district wants to "control outdoor performance and grow it into a year-round attraction."

"This is a great opportunity for us to think about what fits our town and what we want to invest in," she said.

Select board member Mefford Runyon said the board should differentiate between one-time events and businesses seeking to provide outdoor music on a regular basis. There should also be a distinction between residential and commercial applications, he said.

"A person who's having a wedding reception at their house is different from a business establishment that wants to hold music four nights a week," he said.

Galligan suggested that one-day events be approved through Kelly provided that certain criteria outlined by the board are met. Kelly said the sought-after regulations would be geared toward applicants for annual licenses.

"Maybe we can make that clear, that we're not after the one-offs," Galligan said.

Galligan also asked that town officials run any draft regulations past businesses in town that might be impacted.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com