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Council backtracks on Mo’s noise, nightlife rules

Langley resident Victoria Locke, who lives near Mo’s Pub, brings up a tangential  concern to the city council about Mo’s Pub after hours noise on Second Street. Her comments were heard, but Mayor Fred McCarthy reminded the crowd they were only fielding discussion regarding the proposed change of the word “amplified.”  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Langley resident Victoria Locke, who lives near Mo’s Pub, brings up a tangential concern to the city council about Mo’s Pub after hours noise on Second Street. Her comments were heard, but Mayor Fred McCarthy reminded the crowd they were only fielding discussion regarding the proposed change of the word “amplified.”
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

If at first you don’t succeed, send it to the planning advisory board for further study, even after months of work on what was originally a simple, restrictive nightlife ordinance.

Langley City Council remanded its nightlife ordinance back to the planning advisory board for further study after opponents of the current language spoke their piece Monday night.

“The key issue revolves around the neighbors and the pub,” said Mayor Fred McCarthy, who inherited the issue from his predecessor.

At times, the ruckus in City Hall was louder than the performers in Mo’s Pub and Eatery. Supporters of relaxing the ordinance’s language demonstrated the difference in amplified and non-amplified music. Siri Bardarson played her electric cello, plugged into an amp. Bob Trenchard, who owns Mo’s Pub with wife Maureen Cooke, used a decibel level app on his iPhone during her short performance, which read 70 decibels. A non-amplified saxophone played and was considerably louder. Trenchard did not read the decibel level of the saxophonist.

“Admittedly, a restriction on amplified music isn’t perfect,” said City Planner Jeff Arango, who worked with the planning advisory board, Mo’s Pub and neighbors on the original ordinance.

The ordinance only went into effect in late January.

Facing the city’s leaders is a classic conflict between residential rights and business interests. Mo’s Pub sits on Second Street, near several homes. As one of the few places to grab an evening drink in Langley, the pub’s location at the end of the city’s commercial hub has put it at the center of a public debate about how loud is too loud. Ben Watanabe / The Record | Maureen Cooke, owner of Mo’s Pub and Eatery in Langley, pleads her case for changing the city’s nightlife ordinance.

Since learning the pub was in violation of the ordinance for having any amplified music, Cooke ceased allowing performers to plug in and play. It hurt business, she said.

“Since we stopped after April 3, financially it has been a big boon for us to have groups like this performing,” Cooke said. “Since it came to a screeching halt, business is down 40 percent.”

McCarthy originally encouraged city council to reject Cooke’s proposal. That recommendation was ignored by council, which heard the outpouring of dissent regarding the lack of a definition for amplification in the rules.

Conducting the council meeting was far from cordial, however. As citizens commented on the issue, they were frequently interrupted. McCarthy, who retired on South Whidbey from his longtime position as the school district superintendent, looked like an elementary school teacher as he chastised the audience for interrupting one another and whispering snide comments.

“Do not interrupt someone while they’re speaking,” McCarthy commanded. “Am I clear about that?”

Once his rules were laid down and the crowd settled, he commended them for good behavior. All that was missing from the kindergarten classroom tableau were the gold stars.

“You have all been articulate, you have listened well and have been polite,” McCarthy told the citizens.

The planning advisory board will look into defining amplified with a decibel level and establishing time limits on amplified music. Public comment regarding the nightlife and noise ordinance may be submitted to the planning board.

 

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