By Cindy Iutzi
The often discussed and as yet unresolved issue of curtailing late night outside bands and noise in Keokuk could come to a vote at the next Keokuk City Council meeting.
Mayor Tom Marion said two revised ordinances would be offered to council members Thursday for an “up or down vote to lay this to rest.”
At the root of one issue is a provision of an ordinance that allows “outdoor music and/or entertainment event(s) of any type” to be conducted until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
L-Treyns Bar at 1108 Main St., Keokuk, built a beer garden several years ago and during the summer months bands and music play outside until 1 a.m.
Several residents call the police department and regularly complain when the music continues late into the night.
Resident Keith Oliver, who has been steadfast in his request for an earlier end-time to outdoor music at L-Treyns, attended the workshop and encouraged the council to come to a decision.
“Every time (L-Treyns owner) Larry Roberts has a band I will call the police and complain because I can’t sleep until he shuts down,” Oliver said. “One in the morning is too excessive.”
Oliver contends that Roberts didn’t ask the city council for a 1 a.m. limit.
“His original proposal was 11 to 11:30 p.m.,” Oliver said. “We can work it out so it’s beneficial to both. What irritates me is that in the four years we’ve been doing this, we’ve worked with the council, but Larry Roberts has done nothing.”
Roberts has appeared before the council at past meetings and defended the time limit imposed by the ordinance, saying that his business is enhanced by the later outside music venue.
Council member Susan Dunek believes the proposed 11 p.m. cut-off time is too restrictive for those whose jobs aren’t on the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule.
“A whole section of the population ends its workday at 8 p.m.,” Dunek said. “We need to be realistic that a lot of different people live their lives differently.”
“It’s like we’re trying to make this a retirement community,” said council member Mike Moore, adding that he hears trains go by every night.
Council member John Helenthal has researched the music situation by traveling around the community while music plays outside at L-Treyns.
“The sound at 15th and 16th and Palean is as loud as in the alley behind the business,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s the music that is so much louder. The building is like an amphitheater to project music out.”
Helenthal suggested that modifications to L-Treyns could limit the music volume projection into the community.
Sandy Pollitt, also a council member, believes “11 p.m. is an appropriate time to end outdoor music.” She added that the music inside the building is not being curtailed.
“We’re not limiting partying,” said council member Ron Payne.
Payne responded to Moore’s retirement community comment by saying that several cities in Iowa have growing retirement communities “and that’s not such a bad thing.”
Council member Mike O’Connor noted that the entire dispute about music seems to be between the Olivers and Larry Roberts.
In past meetings, council member Roger Bryant said that he’d received phone calls complaining about the music level, but since he’s moved into a new ward, hasn’t gotten any.
Neither council members Larry Mortimer nor Zane Zirkel were present at the workshop, but Zirkel emailed his opinion and several suggestions.
Zirkel noted that citations for excessive noise brought a $50 penalty, which he considered to be an insignificant penalty easily paid by the lawbreaker.
“I believe we should keep a list of those cited and possibly consider an incremental fine possibly leading to jail time,” Zirkel wrote. “Someone making thousands of dollars in an evening will pay a $50 fine each time.”
Zirkel suggested authorizing the police to shut down the event or close the business.
The revised noise ordinance that will be considered Thursday would exclude a portion of a section regarding “mechanical apparatus” as the city council attempts to limit ambiguity in the code.