Noise complaints make for loud hearings before selectmen

Selectman Ron DiOrio vowed to call for a vote to revoke the entertainment license of the Island House, if the board hears another noise complaint about the popular Circuit Avenue bar and restaurant. The establishment was before the board for a public hearing on a noise complaint. The Island House has been the subject of 38 incidents over the past two and a half years, the vast majority of them noise complaints, according to police Chief Erik Blake, who attended the hearing. The latest complaint came from George Gamble, who called police to report loud, vibrating bass noise reaching his Central Avenue home.

The established procedure for filing noise complaints is first to call the police department. An officer will investigate and submit a written report to the chief of police and the town administrator. Those two officials decide whether the complaint rises to the level of a hearing before the selectmen. Selectmen issue the license and have the power to modify or revoke it.

According to police Chief Blake, who attended the hearing, a police officer investigating Mr. Gamble’s complaint found an open window in the rear of the restaurant, and asked manager Sonny Chhibber, to close it.

“I approached Mr. Gamble,” Mr. Chhibber told selectmen. “I apologized, I gave him my cell phone number and told him if there was any problem, call me.” He said the restaurant has taken substantial action to prevent sound from escaping the establishment, including construction of a new foundation and soundproof walls at the rear of the building.

“Last summer, we had no problem whatsoever, so it can be done,” Mr. Gamble told selectmen. “It’s literally two notches on the volume dial, and we don’t have to talk about this.”

Mr. DiOrio, clearly agitated at the number of noise complaints, made his position clear.

“If there is another complaint filed with our police department,” Mr. DiOrio said. “I will make the motion to suspend the entertainment license permanently. Thirty-eight is ridiculous.”

Selectman Greg Coogan moved to issue a formal warning to the Island House, which selectmen approved unanimously.

“Thirty-eight is a stunning number,” Mr. Coogan said. “They may not all be as large as the one that got you in front of us. You’ve made great efforts, the neighbors have recognized that.” Mr. Coogan said he would not like to see the Island House before the board for another hearing. “Because I have no intention of restraining my colleague,” he said, referring to Mr. DiOrio’s ultimatum. The board took no action on the entertainment license.

In a phone conversation Wednesday, Mr. DiOrio was asked whether the ultimatum leaves the restaurant in a position that might put it out of business with one more complaint. “It’s not going to put them out of business, it’s going to lift their entertainment license,” Mr. DiOrio said. He said he is sympathetic to Circuit Avenue businesses that receive an occasional complaint “After 38 complaints, the hand-holding has gone on long enough. That is not acceptable.”

Mr. Chhibber said in a phone conversation Wednesday that he felt blindsided at the hearing by the report of 38 complaints. “I don’t know where all these complaints are coming from,” Mr. Chhibber said. “We were never notified.” He said he is concerned that someone may make a false complaint that could put him out of business. “Anybody from the street could pass by, and call up the selectmen. Somebody could take our business away from us with one complaint.”

At the hearing, selectmen voted unanimously to issue a formal warning to the Island House, but took no action on their entertainment license.

In another public hearing, the board dealt with a separate noise complaint about Deon’s, a Circuit Avenue restaurant. Robyn Nash, an attorney representing Deon’s, disputed the facts in the police report of the incident. During the hearing, owner Deon Thomas disputed the facts described by Brian Kirkpatrick who made the complaint.

Ms. Nash told selectmen the restaurant needs entertainment to draw business. She cited the recent increase in the local option meals tax. “We’re losing our shirt here,” Ms. Nash said. “We’re working to serve meals just to pay the town. We can’t make it. We’ve worked very hard to adhere to the guidelines you’ve put before us.”

Selectmen took no action on the entertainment license.

In other action, conservation agent Elizabeth Durkee asked selectmen to join the conservation commission in a civil lawsuit against contractor Ed Charter. Mr. Charter constructed a new house across the street from the lake. The vegetation partially blocked the view of the lake from the home. Selectmen, concerned about the cost of litigation, instructed Ms. Durkee to create a mitigation plan, perhaps including fines, and offer it to Mr. Charter. If he refuses, the board said it would join the conservation commission in court action.