Jim Foster Jr. has a plea for Charlotte: Please don't stop the music.
Foster, who has owned Selywn Avenue Pub in Myers Park with his father, Jim Foster Sr., for 21 years, says the proposed changes to the city's noise ordinance could hamper business and, in the least, change the experience their patrons love.
If the proposed ordinance passes, the following restrictions would be placed on restaurants and bars near residential neighborhoods:
No live outdoor music within 400 feet of residential zoning;
Non-live amplified noise (e.g., background music, televisions, etc.) may not be audible within residential zoning, regardless of distance;
Live music (amplified or acoustic) and other forms of entertainment may not be audible within residential zoning, regardless of distance.
City officials have said the primary reason they drafted changes to Charlotte's noise ordinance was in response to noise complaints from residents in the Elizabeth neighborhood. Most complaints were related to live music at Philosopher's Stone tavern on East Seventh Street.
"We're caught in someone else's battle," said Foster Jr., who also is a professor at the McColl School of Business at Queen's University of Charlotte. "This is akin to taking a sledgehammer to kill a flea."
Because Selwyn Avenue Pub is nestled in the middle of the Myers Park neighborhood, a number of its practices will be in violation if the new ordinance passes.
For example, the pub no longer could have the occasional jazz band or acoustic guitarist, it would have to turn the televisions down (or off) on big game days and there no longer could be any background music on the patio.
Foster Jr. said the proposed changes are too drastic and affect areas where homeowners and businesses already peacefully co-exist. He says that since he and his dad started the business 21 years ago, they've never been cited for a decibel-level violation, and only on rare occasions have neighbors called to complain.
"We can't survive if we tick off our neighbors," he said. "We're a neighborhood pub."
Foster Jr. said the statewide smoking ban in restaurants and bars drove many of his patrons outside, so he invested in patio improvements. If the changes to the noise ordinance pass, patrons couldn't listen to background music or watch the NCAA tournament on the outdoor televisions.
The Fosters aren't alone in their concerns.
Foster Jr. recently met with the owners of several other businesses along Selwyn Avenue who also are concerned. They plan to present their opinions to the City Council's Community Safety Committee, which will listen to public comments on the proposed changes March 21.
Music promoters and live-music fans unhappy with the proposed changes have responded en masse, launching a campaign called "Save Charlotte Music." They argue that to cultivate the music industry in Charlotte, up-and-coming artists need to be able to play on the patios and decks of local restaurants and bars.
Foster Jr. said he understands the City Council must balance the interests of the neighbors and the businesses but wishes the city would tighten the rules just where neighbors are particularly concerned.
Foster Jr. added that the proposed ordinance is particularly frustrating given Charlotte is hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention - expected to bring nearly 35,000 political leaders, delegates and journalists to Charlotte in September 2012.
"It will be very awkward to invite all these people in, to have all these beautiful patios, and not to have any background music," he said.
Foster Jr. adds, in accordance with the proposed changes, a presidential gathering could get comical.
"The president could talk in a microphone and give a speech, but you couldn't play 'Hail to the Chief' or the National Anthem," said Foster Jr. "The president would have to hum it."