AUGUSTA — Elvis, or an Elvis impersonator at least, is set to make his return to the outdoor stage at the Red Barn restaurant Tuesday for his first gig there since the city shut down a series of similar musical performances there two summers ago for violating the city’s noise ordinance after neighbors complained.
The show, expected to be the first in a series of bi-weekly, free, two-hour concerts, is allowed under the city’s Mass Gathering Permit rules, according to multiple city officials.
The Red Barn applied for and received a permit from the city for its planned Elvis tribute performance by impersonator Dave Michaud from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday. The permits, which Red Barn officials did not seek for its concert series which was ordered to halt by the city in 2012, cost $100 for each event.
And according to Matt Nazar, city development director, the city’s noise ordinance specifically provides an exemption to its regulations for any event that has received another municipal permit, as long as the event is sometime between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
So the show is expected to go on.
“We went through the noise ordinance with a fine-toothed comb and discovered if we have a permit, we were exempt,” said Alicia Barnes, business manager and social media manager at The Red Barn. “We have a Mass Gathering Permit, which is required if you expect more than 200 people, which exempts us from the noise ordinance. This way we’re not breaking any laws.”
The return of musical performances to the stage set up behind the restaurant’s parking lot strikes a sour note with at least two of the Red Barn’s neighbors, Brian King and Roger Carrier, whose nearby homes sit, respectively, immediately to the north and south of the Red Barn. Their complaints two summers ago prompted city officials to look into the concerts and ultimately to order them to halt after the noise during four of them exceeded the city’s noise ordinance decibel limits.
The noise ordinance sets a 60-decibel limit at the property lines separating businesses from their neighbors.
“Basically they’re doing exactly what they did in 2012 with no changes,” said Walter McKee, an attorney who represented King and Carrier last year when the Red Barn unsuccessfully sought a waiver of noise limits from the Planning Board to resume the shows and who represents them in the current issue of the shows restarting. “So we have the same concerns we did then about the excessive noise. Which is going to violate the noise ordinance. They’re concerned, like anybody would be concerned, with a loud concert literally in their backyard.”
City Manager William Bridgeo said in the opinion of both Nazar and Police Chief Robert Gregoire, there is no reason to deny the Red Barn a Mass Gathering Permit. He said city staff will show no favoritism in the matter, would fairly adhere to the city’s ordinances, and would seek guidance from Stephen Langsdorf, the city’s attorney, when warranted.
Nazar said the city’s Mass Gathering Permit rules apply to any outdoor gathering which organizers anticipate will have 200 people or more attend and are meant to ensure such events and facilities where they are held can meet the safety, sanitary and traffic safety needs of a gathering of that size.
Gregoire could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Bridgeo said last week one issue under review was whether the event had adequate parking space.
Barnes said “Elvis” has played at the Red Barn before, and parking wasn’t an issue. And she noted the restaurant is expanding its back parking lot a little. She said a previous Elvis tribute there drew about 100 people outside in addition to the diners inside the restaurant, which seats 80.
She said she feels King is being unreasonable in his objections to the shows.
“We don’t want to alienate our neighbors. That was never our intention,” Barnes said. “But we feel he’s being unreasonable.”
McKee said what type of music is being played at the shows doesn’t matter to Carrier and King. They just don’t want it to be so loud.
He said the city, in issuing a Mass Gathering Permit, has the ability to set conditions for events.
“We expect to talk to the city about what they can do to keep things reasonably quiet in the neighborhood the first of next week,” McKee said Friday. “We’re going to see what the city will do. If the city is not going to take any action, we’ll have to look into our legal options. A number of things could be done to reduce the noise. As far as we know, none of those things are being done.”
Last July the Red Barn sought a waiver from the noise ordinance’s 60-decibel limit for the music series from the Planning Board. Planners, however, dismissed the request, but said the Red Barn could resubmit its waiver request if they can show they’ve tried to address neighbors’ concerns by limiting noise from the concerts.
While the Red Barn frequently hosts numerous fundraising events for local organizations and people in need, the Elvis tribute show is not for a fundraiser.
Bridgeo and Barnes both said it is anticipated there will be a series of such shows this year for which the Red Barn would need to request a Mass Gathering Permit each time.
Barnes said she’s already applied for two more permits, one for another Elvis show May 27 and another for a bluegrass group June 3.
She said the performances, which she said draw a lot of families, will generally take place every other Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Barnes said a downside to obtaining a Mass Gathering Permit for each show is the $100 cost each time. She said Darling’s auto dealership is sponsoring the Elvis show, covering the cost of the permit and the performer’s fee.
Keith Edwards – firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @kedwardskj