Sarasota musicians want county to back off noise restrictions

04/23/14 Seán Kinane
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Tags: Sarasota, music

photo by John Mazzello/WMNF

Some Sarasota musicians are fed up with a new rule in the county limiting noise.

Several dozen packed a joint city-county commission meeting Tuesday to tell elected officials that cracking down on decibel levels is hurting the local economy and cultural scene.

Tony LeClerc plays bass and is a singer-songwriter.

"The ordinance was passed, I believe, May 20th. It reduced the decibel level from 75 to 60. A normal conversation between people runs around 75 decibels. A bird chirping hit 77. A cat's meow is over 60 decibels. It's a ridiculously low level. It's really silly. So what they've done is they've made a decibel that is impossible for live music. You can't have a band. You would have to eliminate drums altogether. You couldn't have any electric instruments. In a town that's supposed to be the city of the arts it's ridiculous that you can't have a live band. They will say they are not trying to eliminate live bands, they just want it to be under 60 decibels and under 60 decibels is physically impossible."

Since the ordinance went into effect, how has this affected bands that you know about?

"There's many that I know personally that have decided $500 fine for each offense, it's selectively enforced. The police are showing up causing people to stay away from shows. All of a sudden there are police walking around a venue, people start leaving. They're not taking decibel level readings from the complainants property where they're saying they can hear the sound, they're standing right outside the door of the venue. They get a spike of sound and they write a citation. They do it over and over and over like that."

You are hoping to organize some musicians and you showed up at the county government meeting yesterday, Tuesday, what happened there? How many people were there and what did you say?

"There was over a hundred, might have been two hundred people. And when the public is allowed to speak at these meeting, each person is allowed three minutes. When they saw how many people were there for the noise ordinance because it was not on the agenda for the meeting, they informed us that they might not be able to get to everyone that wanted to speak on the noise ordinance so only a few of us got up to speak about it. But I did want the city commissioners to see and the county commissioners to see how many of us were there so I just asked everybody that was there for the noise ordinance to raise their hand and it was like the entire room raised their hand. We want to be good neighbors but we wanted to let them know how it affects us and what we said was; just myself. If I lost one show from one venue that we do once a week, I lose $1600 a month from my household. My band employs four people and there are over 5,000 musicians in the greater Sarasota area. We're a huge tax base and we're a huge draw for tourism and revenue just through all of the music stores. All the big box music stores (), Guitar Center, the schools. It's so far reaching when you eliminate live music."

If people want to get involved or find out more, where can they go? Do you have a Facebook page?

"Yes I do. Look up the Live Music Alliance on Facebook. It's open to all musicians and music lovers. We have now retained backing by the ACLU. We don't wish to take this all the way to court. We don't wish to have a lawsuit but we do have grounds for one and we will go that far if we have to."

LeClerc is also music director of the band Rock Soul Radio. His sister, Twinkle Yochim, sings for them.

"This town this area, Tampa's included, there's more talent in this area than I've ever seen in the whole world and to me this area should be listed like Nashville and Austin and Seattle. This is a music mecca and for this kind of restrictive legislation it strangles this industry and it's part of the tourism. This area is listed in tourist magazines in the top 10 consistently, not just the beaches this is also a music thing. This is important and it's not just important to me. This is important to the whole area, to the community for the revenue stream. We're the everyday art. One of the things, we want to reach out to the arts councils because live musicians aren't represented. The ballet, the orchestra and things like that are but that's why we've organized the LMA because we have to get organized. Yesterday was a real achievement that so many people had shown up together."

They are part of the Live Music Alliance working to get Sarasota County to ease up on its noise ordinance.

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