Morristown will let the music play a little longer on the weekends, after numerous live music venues in town complained that, at 10 p.m., the party’s often just getting warmed up.
The selectboard Monday night put the final touches on an amendment to the town’s noise ordinance that pushes back the time that people can complain about noise by two hours. The ordinance change keeps the 10 p.m.-7 a.m. quiet-time period Sunday through Thursday but makes it midnight-7 a.m. on the weekend.
The town noise ordinance does not take into consideration specific decibel levels. A decibel measures the loudness of a sound — roughly speaking, a whisper is about 30 decibels, while a normal conversation or background music chimes in around 60 decibels, a lawn mower at 90 decibels, and a rock concert at 120. The cars at Thunder Road? About 130 decibels.
“So, this is up to anybody’s interpretation of what is loud and what is not,” board chair Bob Beeman observed, in an earlier discussion of the ordinance May 2.
Town administrator Eric Dodge said police officers enforcing noise ordinance complaints use their discretion.
During earlier discussions about having Friday-Saturday extended noise times, there was a concern that if the town enacted it to ensure folks can get an extra two hours of tunes and revelry, that would also apply to someone who wanted to, say, run a backhoe at 11 p.m. on a Friday night on some dirt road on the far side of town.
Paul Ursetti, owner of Tacos & Taps on Main Street, said last month that he had received three noise complaint tickets, and the complaints came in at 10:04, 10:07 and 10:12 p.m., just minutes after what the then-current noise ordinance deemed as quiet time — one from a trumpet and one from a three-piece jazz band.
He worried about getting a fourth ticket because that would put his liquor license at risk. He said most of the time, when he goes out to see music, it starts at 9 p.m., or 8 at the earliest.
“We’re just creating a place for folks to come and have a good time and enjoy themselves. We’re also creating a place for musicians who earn a living by playing music,” Ursetti said. “So, if we started at 9 o’clock, I’m being told by this ordinance that I have an hour for an act to come in and play some music.”
Tom Moog, the owner of Moog’s Place on Portland Street, has been holding down the nightly music scene for the past 11 years. He said the jazz trio that earned Tacos & Taps a noise complaint ticket is highly esteemed and “should be playing Carnegie Hall.”
Moog said he’s thus far managed to avoid being ticketed for noise ordinance violations, but with the town growing as fast as it is, he thinks it would be just a matter of time before people start complaining about his place, if the ordinance allows people to complain after 10 p.m. And all those new people — presumably the ones that are not complaining — are bound to desire a robust nightlife.
“I think it’s imperative that we support music in this town,” Moog said. “But not only that, more than ever, in the last two years, I’ve seen the sanity of people. They need to go out, they need some time for themselves.”