Bars that blast bass-thumping music downtown, beware: Code enforcement inspectors in Melbourne will start measuring decibel levels during random checks on Friday and Saturday nights.
Complaints of blaring music have increased the past few months from business owners, police officers and residents, particularly in Trinity Towers East and West, said Mark Herold, a code enforcement official.
According to Local 6 News partner Florida Today, last week, Herold led an information session on Melbourne's noise ordinance at City Hall. Calling enforcement "a last resort," he took feedback from downtown business owners and asked them to monitor one another.
But Cocoa Beach concert promoter Robert Deuterman, who books bands at downtown festivals and bars, said enforcing a decibel limit is a vague, difficult task. Recalling that Melbourne was "dead downtown" when he bartended there years ago, he said the thriving nightlife scene is now the envy of Port Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.
"If you stress these poor people and tell them, 'No bands! Absolutely no bands!' and you have to be quiet as a church mouse, well, that means there's no business," he said.
Herold replied that tavern operators' property rights end at their property lines, and the noise ordinance is intended to protect the public.
"The city is saying, 'You can have noise as much as you want -- on your property.' But outside your property line, it can't be more than 70 (decibels). They're not trying to control your business inside, with the music," he said.
The city has not issued any downtown-noise code violations this year, said Terry Oliver, a code enforcement inspector.
Herold declined to say when his agency's random checks will begin.
"We would prefer that you would all basically self-monitor yourselves. We're going to monitor you first. We're going to give you warnings. We're going to give you every opportunity to do what needs done to come into compliance first," Herold said.
Police Cmdr. Vince Pryce agreed.
"Your music belongs to your property. We've had some locations where they're hanging their speakers outside and playing music in the street," Pryce said.
In 2010, the Melbourne City Council created a "Downtown Entertainment Noise District" and turned up the allowable volume from 65 to 70 decibels from 9 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. This district extends along New Haven Avenue (Mustard's Last Stand to U.S. 1) and Strawbridge Avenue (Melbourne City Hall to U.S. 1).
Melbourne Main Street Executive Director Casey Gilbert suggested bar owners band together and ask City Council to boost nighttime limits to 75 or 80 decibels. She said the noise ordinance may no longer be suited for the growing nightlife zone.
Kevin Carlin, Mainstreet Pub operational manager, uses a decibel-meter app on his phone. Per ordinance, music from his venue's tiki bar cannot exceed 55 decibels after 10 p.m. at the neighboring Grant Place Condominiums. He sat in the second row during Wednesday's meeting in Council Chambers.
"When you were just speaking, you were just about at 55 decibels," Carlin told Herold. "Do you understand that a business, working at night at 55 decibels, is almost impossible? An outdoor business?"
Herold said his department is studying how to start enforcing volume from street musicians, which have become common sights along New Haven Avenue.
Downtown noise limits
From the venue's property line
• 9 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.: 70 decibels
• 1:30 to 9 a.m.: 60 decibels
From any surrounding residential property
• 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.: 60 decibels
• 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.: 55 decibels