The sound of static
How a noise complaint shut down Ventura’s long-awaited summer concert series
By Shane Cohn 06/27/2013
Bring lawyers, guns and money.
Bring mama a new pair of shoes.
It still won’t be enough to bring an ocean-view, outdoor summer concert series to Downtown Ventura in 2013.
Maybe next year.
For the second year in a row, a 12-show, three-month summer concert series in the vacant parking lot above Ventura City Hall has been postponed.
Last year, the series — expected to generate an estimated $1.5 million for the local economy — was postponed because the city and live entertainment producer Nederlander Concerts, in partnership with Ventura business owner and music manager Mark Hartley, couldn’t reach an agreement about parking and other environmental and safety issues in time to adequately promote the series. The series, the promoters said, would bring national acts akin to the artists booked by Nederlander at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
With Council approval and the details finally ironed out a year later, a lawsuit filed this month by the Bella Maggiore Inn — a downtown bed and breakfast — against both the city and Cafe Fiore — a downtown bar and restaurant across the street from the Inn — on the grounds of excessive noise causing economic harm and disturbance to guests has caused the city and the promoter to pull the plug on the concert series.
“We’re going to take a fresh look at the noise standard and make another go of it in 2014,” said Community Development Director Jeff Lambert. He said there haven’t been any changes to municipal code in regards to the noise ordinance, but the pending Bella Maggiore lawsuit was enough to give the promoters cold feet about going forward with the concerts.
Securing major artists for a venue of this caliber, Lambert said, requires the promoters to pay hefty booking fees months in advance. “If there is a complaint that turns into a lawsuit or a court order to stop the process, all that money is at risk,” said Lambert.
Hartley couldn’t be reached to comment before deadline.
The Bella Maggiore is seeking $52,522 for loss of past earnings, and additional daily damages until the nuisance is abated in the amount of $52.35. The suit claims Cafe Fiore has been playing music past 10 p.m. that exceeds permitted noise levels, and the cafe is violating its dance and entertainment permit because music and noise “shall not interfere with the persons dwelling or conducting business in the vicinity of the permitted premises so as to deprive them of reasonable enjoyment of their property.”
“We are in the process of preparing an application for a temporary restraining order and a request for a preliminary injunction processed against Cafe Fiore, not allowing them to play music past 10 p.m.,” said James Devine, the attorney representing Bella Maggiore.
The city is lumped into the lawsuit because it owns the Cafe Fiore outdoor patio, which is leased by the restaurant. The city, the lawsuit alleges, has done nothing to abate the nuisance, though there have been numerous complaints made to the Ventura Police Department by the Bella Maggiore.
Per its agreement with the city, the shows for the concert series would end by 10 p.m. and be in full compliance with the city’s noise ordinance. Noise, the city has learned, is not a black and white issue.
But there is plenty of static.