Music can soothe the soul…or it can become a life-altering distraction when it invades one’s home, which is what Hellertown residents Christine and Yasha Breedlove told borough council Monday has been happening to them for the past year.
The Breedloves live in the 600 block of Main Street directly across from 1774 Grille & Tap–a restaurant with a covered side porch on which musicians sometimes perform live, and where corner-mounted speakers also project the sound of recorded music as patrons enjoy food and/or drinks al fresco.
Restaurant owner Kim Culver-Adams told council there is never outdoor music after 9 p.m., and that 1774 Grille has tried to be accommodating and neighborly when the Breedloves have approached them about their noise concerns.
She cited the fact that the speakers on the front (Main Street) side of the building were recently disconnected, so the only outdoor music is now on the Penn Street side of the building, as evidence of her efforts to be accommodating.
The Breedloves conceded that the restaurant has turned the volume down on its speaker system whenever they have asked them to, but said they have had to ask them too many times.
“I do call really on a daily basis,” Christine Breedlove told council. “That noise is constantly bombarding our home.”
They told council they are not opposed to live or recorded music being played on the restaurant’s side porch, but that they do have an issue with the volume levels, which they said they’re tired of “babysitting.”
“(The noise) is loud enough to go all the way over to the next street over sometimes,” Christine Breedlove claimed, referring to Harris Street. “That is a volume issue.”
She said 1774 Grille & Tap “should be able to provide music for (its) guests,” but told council, “I also have the right to a peaceful home.”
Culver-Adams told council she has “gone above and beyond” to address the Breedloves’ noise concerns.
She said they recently complained about music on a Sunday afternoon when a musician was performing on the porch during the restaurant’s Sunday brunch from 11 to 3 p.m.
She described the type of music that’s typically performed at brunch as subdued blues/jazz reminiscent of what one might hear in a “coffeehouse,” and said in some cases the musicians who are performing are doing so acoustically.
“We have had no other complaints from other people,” Culver-Adams told council, “so obviously it’s not that loud.”
Christine Breedlove disagreed with that assertion and said she knows other neighbors who have been bothered by the volume level of the music played outside at 1774 Grille.
She said those neighbors haven’t gone through official channels to lodge complaints as she has, perhaps because they’re not sure how to do that. In her case she said she contacted the borough’s zoning and codes enforcement officer, Kris Russo, who was not in attendance at the council meeting. In at least one instance police who responded to a noise complaint she made took a report, she said. In other cases, they weren’t able to verify that the music was causing a nuisance because it wasn’t being performed or played when they arrived to investigate.
Council vice president Phil Weber said he also knows of other neighbors of the restaurant who can hear the music in their homes.
“People do hear it,” he said, “but they’re not really worried about the sound.”
Culver-Adams asked council to consider adopting a separate noise ordinance similar to what cities like Bethlehem and Easton–which have many restaurants that offer outdoor dining–have adopted. Such an ordinance would likely regulate sound levels and the times when establishments can host or play outdoor music, rather than leaving it at the discretion of officials.
Currently the borough has no noise ordinance, with noise complaints addressed under the borough’s nuisance ordinance on a case-by-case basis.
Borough officials agreed to study the cities’ ordinances, but borough manager Cathy Hartranft noted that there would be expenses incurred if council decided to adopt a noise ordinance. For example, special equipment that measures decibel levels would need to be purchased and employees would need to be trained in how to use it.
Mayor David Heintzelman asked Christine Breedlove if he could visit her home in order to experience first-hand the noise she says is interrupting daily activities like sit-down family dinners.
“We want good neighbors,” he said. “We take into account the entire community as a whole.”
Christine Breedlove also agreed to send council members recordings of the noise she said she’s made inside her home because she was at her “wit’s end” over the noise.
Council will next discuss the noise issue and possibility of adopting a noise ordinance at its meeting Aug. 20, which will be held at 7 p.m. at Hellertown Borough Hall, 685 Main Street.