Council Denies Moto Saloon Music Permit

In a 4-1 vote, City Council denied Black Market Moto Saloon a music permit at tonight’s meeting, Graham Moomaw writes for the Daily Progress. Owner Matteus Frankovich held live music performances at the Meade & Market restaurant for the first few months of its existence, until complaints of loud, late-night music caused the performances to come to the attention of the city, who pointed out that Frankovich had no permit to hold concerts. The owner applied to the Planning Commission for a special-use permit, who recommended a narrowly tailored permit, but City Council disagreed, presumably influenced in part by neighbors turning out and asking that it be denied. Some members of Council saw the period in which the venue was operating illegally as a good enough test run to find that it would be incompatible with the neighborhood. (Moto Saloon may not be thrilled with the April Foursquare tip that “if it gets too loud the bartender has earplugs.”) Frankovich says that his business’s success is contingent on the ability to host live music, and while he doesn’t intend to take the matter to court, he has threatened (jokingly, one assumes) to open a “nudie bar” instead.

20 thoughts on “Council Denies Moto Saloon Music Permit”

  1. It seems a shame, seeing as how the guy made a major effort to get it right once he requested the permit .Also a bit hypocritical of council to deny this permit while regularly sponsoring loud music at the pavilion a few blocks away.

  2. How about the sound of a jillion screaming crotch-fruit not 100 yards away – every single summer day? Who legislates for the nocturnal?

    Story time: For the last six years or so, I have played loud amplified music at various local establishments, one more regularly than others. Long before the ‘Belmont Noise Wars’, there was one local officer who, though I know not the reason, everyone called Officer Skittles. Now Skittles’ baton had become rather obviously turgid for a very beautiful waitress at said establishment.

    Now I’ve nothing against cops, but I think it cannot be denied that they have a specific relationship with power. It comes with the job. It is my amateur psychological assessment that Skittles thought that his power to control the party was a golden vial of pheromones, which, if wafted about as frequently and conspicuously as possible, would surely win the hand of the comely lass that bewitched him. This, of course, could not be further from the truth, but Skittles remained undeterred by reason.

    The method by which he wielded his “power”, was by showing up with his decibel meter and a handful of nebulous phantasmic noise complaints. Any variance, and he would march right in and literally pull the plug on a hundred dancing people. This onerous recurrence eventually led to discussions with management and ownership of the establishment, who was very much interested in compliance, but was finding it difficult to determine the difference between 72 db’s which was legal at 75 feet, and say 77 db’s, which was an opportunity for Skittles to flirt in his own peculiar idiom.

    At one of these discussions, the owners suggested that they buy their OWN decibel meter, so that they could monitor themselves, and make adjustments with a less heavy handed disruption to the party at hand. They really wanted to comply. They were informed that the decibel meters were state calibrated (?), and even if said establishment had their own meter, it would be irrelevant. Also, it was conveniently ILLEGAL to have an ordinary citizen even own a “state calibrated” decibel meter. This to me would be analogous to not being able to have a speedometer in one’s car, whose only purpose is to help one comply with the law, but hey, this was no buffet of logic.

    It is my understanding that the Moto Saloon was subjected to these type of tests prior to this ruling. Personally I just have to laugh at all the theater that goes into these absurd decisions. Committees, hearings, tests… bread and circuses to shut out yet another leak of actual culture – and one that does not fall under the safe and compliant tin rooftops of the corporate / capshaw entertainment shantytown. Officer Skittles is no longer on the local force, but I am sure somewhere out there, he is smiling.

    To sum up: What a crock of shit.

  3. Just my 2 cents here, as seen from Ground Zero. B Yo’s entertaining story notwithstanding (and I am a longtime fan of his posts, as well as his DJ skills), this issue had nothing to do with the dBs. The test proposed by the Planning Commission was inadequate to replicate the true conditions of a live band on the premises. Music played from a laptop through a PA system is not live music, and doesn’t contain the same swings in dynamic range. Regrettably, the test didn’t “prove” anything… except that there are apples, and there are also oranges.

    Additionally, most of the news media failed to report that the bass during the test could be felt a block away, so not a rousing success as tests go. As we know from the Bel Rio days, the city doesn’t have the equipment to quantify bass levels. The test also can’t quantify the behavior of patrons as they leave an establishment after a show. BYo’s story above readily demonstrates that YMMV when you call the cops, but that train runs both ways. Some are over-zealous, and others don’t give a damn about what they may consider a minor issue. Then there are the majority in the middle who are just trying to do their job.

    There’s a lot to this story that hasn’t been reported, or even spoken about openly. It’s unfortunate that rhetoric and hyperbole have highjacked what could have been constructive discussions about zoning, noise, and neighborhood identity. We’ve spoken calmly about the zoning side of things from the beginning, but people chose to ignore that. Zoning isn’t sexy.

    Making this out to be “Footloose: The Woolen Mills Years” does a huge disservice to the local music scene. There’s nothing stopping anyone from opening a thriving vibrant music club in Cville within the zoning where it’s allowed. Any club owner can choose to do their homework and get buy-in beforehand from potentially impacted residents and nearby businesses.

    There’s nothing preventing a pub and restaurant in the area from thriving. Beer Run is a good example of savvy owners giving people what they want,and then reaping the rewards of their hard labor. No one ever said it was easy to open a business, and that’s something that all business owners struggle with everywhere, not just in Cville. However, if you start things off on the right foot by being cool about the people around you, and try to build your customer base from the get-go, your chances of succeeding are much greater. This is really basic stuff we all learned in Civics class back in school.

  4. Two coppers accepted, definitely, but with some minor disagreement. First of all, your observations are spurious in as much as we all know, no one is a fan of my dj skills. But to the matter at hand….

    Am I to understand that the test they performed was inadequate and largely irrelevant? So they then polished off their 4th grade science merit badges and deferred to… what? A basket of anecdotes? I mean, for me personally, bass a block away would in fact be considered a success! But I understand my tastes are not for everyone. And Bel Rio had far worse problems than just excessive bass, and the noise level argument was one of the ways they were targeted indirectly.

    I agree a show can draw in some late night shufflers which may be a detriment to the neighborhood, but then again, so does the downtown mall! Just look a couple posts down, homeless etc. Should the mall business owners not be allowed to play ambient music in their stores? Should they only be open 10-11am? Like you said, apples and oranges.

    You are right, zoning isn’t sexy. I was once asked to comment on behalf of my chunk of belmont when the city wanted to waive 5 SEPARATE ZONING ORDINANCES to cram a two bedroom into a tiny undeveloped section of my block. When the Board of Zoning finally got their shit together to form a quorum (I had to take three days off work, and it wasn’t even until the third that more than two even showed up – literally one said “sorry, I forgot this was happening”. Twice.), they calmly and disinterestedly listened to the concerns of surrounding neighbors which I had been charged with collecting and delivering, and then said, and I paraphrase: “Fuck you, you are in a designated growth area, and we are shoving something more taxable in there. Would you perhaps prefer a double wide?” They actually did threaten me with a double wide in my back yard, the rest was just the tone. I have never felt so dismissed in all my civic life. And I had to report this back to my unanimous in opposition neighbors.

    So to here them whinging on about zoning, reading from the code book like its scripture is completely ridiculous to me.

    It is also funny you mention beer run, whose original business plan included live music, and being open past 12:00, and was shot down by the complaints of ONE neighbor whose capacity for sand in her bathing suit area had been reached years earlier. They lost and have to close at midnight now. Her advantage? She used to work for city planning and knew all the right levers to pull. Oh and by the way? She also fought hard against beer run’s picnic tables in the grass by the road. They had to fight and fight just to get those, so think about that the next time you are enjoying a refreshing out door bevy under an umbrella.

    Footloose is actually pretty apt in my opinion. Pud House? Gone. Dust? Gone. Parties behind the Jeff? Gone. Anything fun that you never heard of because you didn’t know it existed because it never caused the calamitous problems that you imagine they might have cause if you had read it on paper, gone.

    And maybe I don’t want to hear Dave Mathews covers, or Kenny Rogers or whatever half dead hundred year old has been they decide to wheel out on a dolly to croak some semblance of an ancient yacht rock song whilst sipping my chablis in the safety of my portable plow and hearth adirandack chair.

    Maybe I wanna get down and dirty – in the underground, where all the fun stuff (that you will love and pay $50 to see in ten years) is BORN. And believe me, there will be an underground, its unstoppable.

    Im not a bad person. I don’t want the bass of two peavy 15’s to interrupt the sound of the immense locomotive that rolls right through your neighborhood every 20 minutes. I took civics. You obviously have more dog in this fight than i do. So I ask you, have you ever had a personal conversation with Matteus? He’s a pretty gentle creative soul. Were all the concerned citizens “cool from the get go” with him? Or did that only happen in a hearing room?

    Also: beer run owners savvy? *snert* ferreals? I love them to pieces, but that is not an adjective I would choose first, lets say.

  5. “With the decision, the council overruled the city Planning Commission, which voted 5-1 last month to recommend approving a special-use permit under certain conditions.”Daily Progress

    The Planning Commission advises Council, often Council follows the Planning Commission’s advice, sometimes they don’t.
    In this case, the Council didn’t overrule the Planning Commission, they just did not agree with the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

  6. Point taken re your DJ skills. :-)

    I’ll offer this in the spirit of cooperation– seeing as how you have no idea what sort of music I or my neighbors listen to, or the places we frequent, that line of argument, along with the played out Dave Matthews covers comment, doesn’t really have anything to do with this particular issue. The ageist blather is also played out. I’m well aware of Dust and Pud House and Magnolia, as I have clapped mine own eyes and ears upon them up close and personal-like. Been a midwife at the birth of fun stuff. Once again, those venues are not part of this particular zoning issue– which involved a bar and restaurant, not the underground scene you speak of. However, if you are inferring that there is a critical need for venues like Moto (and the late Tokyo Rose and Satellite Ballroom), where up and coming– and thankfully out of the gawdawful mainstream– talent can play, then you’ll get no argument from me. If this is merely meant to be a contest on music cred and coolness quotient, then you lost me. Not interested. I do salute your desire to get down and dirty.

    Re your own zoning travails, I hear ya. Been there, done that. Maddening, isn’t it> But it doesn’t actually have anything to do with our current sitting Councilors and how they arrived at their conclusion last night. If anything, last night’s debate should give heart to anyone who has been churned through the zoning mill and come out the other side as chum.

    I’m not a frequent Beer Run customer, sorry. Nothing at all against them or their fine products, just not my scene. In mentioning Beer Run, I was sharing an example of a successful nearby business, not speaking of personal preference as to my choice of venues. Because of its zoning, Beer Run has to first obtain a special use permit to have live music. The owners probably checked into that before they chose the location. If not, then caveat emptor oops. I imagine their musical aspirations were stopped by the permitting issue, not solely a lady with a past in planning. Re the owners, savvy=successful in this context, unless it was all entirely accidental. Doubt that.

    The details of who said what to whom first in the neighborhood, who tried to establish contact, how amenable and cooperative neighbors were, and the many months of neighborly slack given to Moto before anyone made a single peep, are all part of the long complicated story. How things unfolded definitely had something to do with how folks eventually felt, and it undeniably drove some of the events that led up to last night’s decision. At this point though, that’s all water under the bridge, save that it makes a mighty effective cautionary tale.

    The trains don’t come through every 20 minutes, but then you already know that. Cheers.

  7. I’m sick to death of forgiveness rather than permission.

    That’s all this is.

    If CAPITALISM is risk-taking: why do the ‘enthrepeneurs’ jump up and down so when they fail? Isn’t that part of the risk? Isn’t that what should happen when they gamble on forgiveness and don’t get it? The guy asked for a WAIVER. Council didn’t waive.

    I adore 99% of what Belmont Yo has to say. This time, not so much. When someone else has to pay in time, money, health, or sleep so someone else can make a buck….? That’s local outsourcing in a heinous way. That’s just plain discourteous. That’s I-already-risked X-$$$-on-you-giving-me-what-I-don’t-already-possess-and-so-now-you’ll-all-give-it-to-me-because….

    Permission vs. Forgiveness. Too many have been compelled to forgive — and pay for their forgiveness.

    Love Canal. Erin Brokovich. Superfund. Pink slime & sugar in 100% ground beef? Get a grip.

    Ask first, build second. I’ve been asked too often on too many fronts to just ‘forgive’.

  8. What’s baffling to me is that JABA jumped into this debate. Among other things, they are concerned that allowing live music would be “adverse branding” for the Woolen Mills neighborhood. Meanwhile, many actual neighbors supported live music there, and expressed this wish in a petition presented to the Planning Commission. But this was not read out loud, as the JABA Letter was. I thought the mission of JABA was to support inclusive, intergenerational community, not advocate for a subset of the population in opposition to the expressed interests of others.

    There’s no way music would have been heard from Timberlake Place.

    Are we witnessing a new more muscular organization that will now issue edicts about any land use in the region that may have more appeal to younger people?

  9. JABA can probably speak for themselves on this, but I think that the overt ugliness and prejudice directed at some female Woolen Mills residents probably motivated their letter. After all, JABA are advocates for those who, as a Moto supporter called them, “have one foot in the grave.”

    It was pretty obvious that the person reading the JABA letter had no idea she wasn’t allowed to comment, and that was addressed by Council. In the long run, it was probably okay that one person from the neighborhood got to speak though. You may or may not know that a number of women residents who came to speak at the Planning Commission hearing were targeted and harassed into silence by some people in the crowd there. Last night, Dave Norris addressed the behavior witnessed by Council at the PC hearing.

    Picking on and mocking the elderly, especially those on limited incomes, is pretty awful. Add in the fact that these folks were living here happily long before the people mocking them arrived on the scene, and I’d say that’s completely indefensible. The Woolen Mills community has a long rich history of revering and caring for our elders. That’s certainly never been a problem for us, but I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility that it might be inconvenient for some.

    Actually, music has been heard that far down the street before. Fact.

  10. My apologies if I personally offended any of you, that was not my intent. Sometimes I get all jacked up on caffeine and frustration and I toss a word salad that to even me tastes bad. You are all very much more informed than myself, thats why I like this site. Simple counterpoint to all my arguments: If I really cared all that much, I would have been at the city council meeting, instead of foaming about it after the fact on the internet.

    I will crawl back into my hole now and resume lurking for a while, clearly I have lost both my manners and my mind.

  11. I love this site. People come on it, are smart and intelligent and informed, and if sometimes we get carried away, we (generally) acknowledge our overreach, and (almost always) we are welcomed back into the fold. Where else online does that happen, I ask you? Hardly anywhere that I can see…

  12. I share Claire’s sentiment entirely, and also love this place because of participants like B Yo. People have distinct personalities and “voices” and that’s part of what makes it fun in addition to being informative.

    B Yo, re your comment above– hope you’ll do less lurking and more posting please! I certainly didn’t take any offense at your comments. Only hope that my reply didn’t seem shrill, as that wasn’t the intent.

    One thing that I found interesting about your comments was that they illustrated how personal an issue this has been for many members of the music community. I have a great deal of sympathy for that feeling. The unfortunate misstep occurred when a bunch of people framed it as a free speech fight rather than a residential neighborhood and zoning issue. Coming at it with an attitude of “Screw you old people, we want stuff and we want it now, and if you don’t get out of our way we’ll crush you” isn’t helpful. Likewise, accusing the people who’ve been disturbed by the music and ancillary noise as deluded or angry old people, pretty much guarantees no one will take you seriously. Here’s a clue for the folks involved– the fact that the “angry old people” weren’t dialing 911 constantly on you means that they’re actually NICE, not that you weren’t disturbing the heck out of them.

    I’m concerned about how this has impacted the live music scene negatively. I’m sure many citizens are aware of what took place in our neighborhood and at the PC hearing, and are now more wary than ever. On a personal level, I went from being an avid supporter of local music to feeling like maybe I need to rethink or reframe that support.

    In the end, though, it’s an issue involving the greater zoning picture. Sadly, zoning is wonky, and most people don’t relish talking about it.

  13. Amen to Claire, Victoria, and Belmont Yo. This is a smart site.

    I’m just thinking that if I were to want to create a live music spot where I could be loud as hell, I’d find a place where I could get permitted to do so before I sank my money into the place. (There’s shades of Batesville Store imbroglio here.)

    And from a patron point of view: isn’t it a something of a buzz-kill to piss off innocent bystanders in your community? Amirite? I might not be, as there does seem to be a sort of poseur-badass “oppositional” attitude in the social marketing of this establishment. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

  14. Not that this excuses not getting the permit from the outset, but this place’s immediate neighbors are a warehouse, gym and junkyard. Across the street you’ve got the tombstone place.
    I *kind of* see how loud music is detrimental to some of the houses further down Market St., but it’s an industrial space that’s been an industrial space for decades.

  15. I’m just thinking that if I were to want to create a live music spot where I could be loud as hell, I’d find a place where I could get permitted to do so before I sank my money into the place. (There’s shades of Batesville Store imbroglio here.)

    That’s a great point with the Batesville Store comparison. I’m kind of amazed that somebody would spend tens of thousands of dollars starting a music-rooted venue without first establishing that zoning permits them to have a music venue there. Especially somebody who already owns a business that has live music. Given the many years of debates that we’ve witnessed (common in a college town) over loud, late-night concerts at establishments that were not billed as music venues when they started, that seems kind of obvious.

    It’s noteworthy that dedicated music venues haven’t had this problem. Trax/Maxx/Crossroads, Satellite Ballroom, and Prism Coffeehouse all come to mind as venues that had live music but never pissed off their neighbors. The former two were located in the correct parts of town relative to populations, and the third combined quieter music with early hours, despite being located in a heavily residential area. I assume that this because they created those venues with a clear-eyed view of what they were doing, rather than thinking “I’ll start a restaurant by the way, music too.”

    Incidentally, I helped put on some of those raging dance parties in the back of the Jefferson back in the early ’00s. We never had any trouble with noise complaints, because the events were held in a building designed to handle noisy events without leaking much sound.

  16. Interesting you mentioned the Prism, Waldo. Couple things I’d like to point out. First, the Prism unlike these other places did not serve alcohol, and secondly,many of its neighbors were frat houses, who would hardly have been in a position to complain about noise!
    It was a great place and its closing was a real loss to the community, especially to those of us who preferred our music in alcohol free spaces. (Not that rowdy drunks were ever a problem in the Gravity Lounge-another great loss-to my knowledge).

  17. As a short note, I spoke at length with a home owner that was close to that ill fated mess in Belmont that began the noise issues. He wondered why a place that was about 60 feet from stage to street needed music so loud it could be heard 2-3 blocks away, even when doors and windows were closed. He aqlso discussed the bass, which no amount of “white noise” could drown.

    But the part he said could not be measured was the people leaving the club late at night, ears ringing from the music and having to yell to each other to be heard walking down a finally quiet street.

    Anyway, if an airport tries to open in your neighborhood, you have a right to say not interested.

  18. It is unfortunate that the noise side of this has been dominating the discussion. Of course it is an issue and part of the concern about this. I, for one, have heard the venue many blocks away on a clear night. But that is not the major concern of many of the people involved. There is a great deal of industrial land immediately adjacent to residential zoning in the Woolen Mills. Pretty much everyone agrees this is a recipe for disaster (see above). The city for years has neglected/refused to make any sort of comprehensive plan to address these issues despite multiple requests. ANY change in zoning should be accompanied by a larger plan for the area and until that happens, it is my personal belief that they should not consider any requests for waivers or changes. Zoning changes are extremely difficult to revoke. This is a big decision and should be treated with due consideration.

    So yes, noise is an issue, along with all the associated traffic, drunken shenanigans, late night hoop-la, etc. But mostly this is about getting it right before we start monkeying around with exceptions. And I fear that is still a long way off.

  19. Elsie is certainly correct that the industrial zoning directly adjacent residential in Woolen Mills is a persistent problem that needs to be addressed. However, this is exactly why Moto and places like it are a step in the right direction. As Jim Tolbert pointed out, under current zoning a business can make as much noise as they want on this site. If Council had granted an SUP to allow a Music Hall, this would have actually introduced more restriction on noise for the site, not less.

    And about noise. No noise complaints were issued at the time concerts were held at Moto (outdoor concerts held nearby at the same time by another establishment did receive noise complaints). And an objective noise test showed that decibel readings were not even close to registering as excessive. After the fact, some nearby neighbors claimed to have heard excessive noise while other nearby neighbors claimed to not hear a thing. However, all of this did not start coming out until after Matteus filed for a permit and opposition began to galvanize.

    As the staff report to planning commission points out, direct noise from playing music should have been a non-issue in this. However, indirect noise from people driving/talking was a valid consideration.

  20. Undeniably, the impacts of unbuffered industrial zoning have created hardships for the residential neighborhood, but it’s caused an issue far more pernicious than noise, dust, blight, etc. The presence of M1 land has led to prejudicial zoning decisions by the City, and gross misperception by the general public regarding the fabric of this residential neighborhood. We’re not the only City neighborhood that has faced this.

    The City employs a “junk drawer” mentality to industrial land, i.e. if there’s an incompatible use, just toss it in the industrial area and no one will be the wiser. The abutting residences didn’t matter to the City/County, and that sort of attitude has led to larger issues like the sewage treatment plant, composting yard, and pumping station. The Linen Bldg has had some diverse tenants like the blacksmith shop, Crossfit, furniture repair, sign-makers, etc. For the most part, theses businesses were closed in the evenings and created no problems for nearby residents. The noise was minimal, sporadic, and usually occurred only during the day.

    New Reality, what you’re essentially asking here is that the residents living close to the unbuffered industrial area take on an *additional* burden of late night noise. Doing our planning and zoning from the methodology of “Well, it could be worse” is ludicrous. That’s not how real professionals plan. Our job as a community is to zone mindfully and intentionally, not in a reactionary fashion. If you want residential neighborhoods to get on board with the concept of mixed-use and neighborhood commercial, you don’t burden them with a noisy late-night scene, yelling, etc (from 1:30-3:30am only a week or so ago). You don’t ask them to accept a club whose marketing is overtly “bad-ass” as Feets stated above.

    The sound test was not objective– it didn’t have live music. Even so, despite the dBs, Councilors could feel the bass up to a block away. Decibel meters only address A-weighted noise, not vibrations like bass. As to why some neighbors hear noise and others don’t, please do some research on that. There are many variables such as topography, weather, what’s standing between you and the source, sensitivity, etc etc.

    No one claimed to have heard noise “after the fact.” The noise was heard while it was occurring. Neighbors spoke with Moto’s owner directly about it, and objections were documented prior to his being shut down. Lots of neighbors heard the noise then, and have continued to hear it off and on over the intervening months. Some neighbors didn’t hear it, or weren’t bothered by it. That doesn’t mean the people affected were hallucinating.

    I really don’t understand why you continue to question the honesty of the neighbors, but feel very comfortable with the fact that someone ran an illegal club next to them for six months before getting shut down.

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