2016-11-03 / Around Town

Compromise Reached on Entertainment License

By Barry Bridges

After hearing comments from several neighbors concerned about an indoor entertainment license being considered for the Irish American Athletic Club at 642 Thames Street, Newport City Councilors granted the license with some restrictions during their meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

The application sought permission for amplified music with one to two vocalists and two to four musicians, and asked that acoustic and electric stringed instruments, drums, keyboards, and bagpipes be allowed during the hours of noon-7 p.m. and/or 7 p.m.-midnight.

But nearby residents feared that the entertainment license could exacerbate what they described as noise problems that already exist in the area.

“The fear I have, and the fear that all of us have, is that our residential neighborhood will become an appendage of downtown, where there are many restaurants and bars, meaning with live entertainment and big crowds,” said Robert Marro, a resident on adjacent Narragansett Avenue. He also mentioned limited parking as a consideration.

“I just think it brings things down, both from a noise perspective and from the foot traffic, drunkenness, and the inevitable things that occur when you have these type of establishments,” he continued. “I think it really changes the character of the establishment, and frankly, I see nothing but bad things occurring as a result.”

Also among the residents commenting on the request was Douglas Clark of 655 Thames St., who offered, “It is still a quiet area of Newport to live in, just outside the nightlife at the beginning of Thames Street. I believe this type of entertainment will change the overall dynamic of what is now a family neighborhood.”

Julie Grednuk of West Narragansett Avenue also described existing noise and parking problems. “Not only do [patrons at the bar] talk, but when they’re intoxicated they scream. People are quite intoxicated when they come out of this bar…. I’ve lived in our house for 22 years, and it’s been a nightmare for the last two years.”

The new proprietors of the Irish American Club, John Cardosi and Sharon McCarthy, have owned the building for a month and detailed modest intentions in seeking the entertainment license.

“We’re not looking to make it a nightclub. We have people living upstairs in guest houses, so we don’t want to make it very loud,” McCarthy told councilors. “Maybe we’ll have someone in the afternoon playing a guitar, or someone in the evening, maybe we’ll have bagpipes after a parade…. We’re just trying to put some life back into a business that has been failing for a few years.”

Councilor Kathyrn Leonard immediately sided with the residents. “This is a limited business zone, and as far back as I can remember, that designation has really been like a ‘buffer zone’ to add a little distance between the general business and the residential areas nearby. And there are several neighbors here that have been there for a long time…. I can’t support it.”

But other councilors were ready to balance the competing interests.

“I was wondering if there would be a willingness to perhaps, instead of going all the way to midnight, go to more like 9 or 10 o’clock,” asked Councilor Naomi Neville. “You do have the residences above, so I would think that you might not be able to do music so late anyway.”

Councilor Justin McLaughlin, also sympathetic to the neighbors’ worries, made the additional suggestion to limit the number of performers to three. “That would advertise that you’re going to have a certain kind of entertainment, as opposed to a full band.”

And Councilor John Florez noted that similar applications approved in the recent past have evidently established good track records.

“One thing that I’ve noticed is that every time an organization comes and asks for an entertainment license, we get a group who express a lot of concern, but so far there hasn’t been one single complaint. I haven’t received one phone call from a resident about the music being loud or a ruckus happening.”

Also commenting was City Manager Joseph Nicholson, who reminded councilors, “It’s a condition of every license that you control the patrons inside the premises, but you also have a responsibility to control them outside the premises.” He added, “Violations could put [an establishment’s] liquor license at risk. And if we take the liquor license, that place is out of business.”

Satisfied that the city would properly enforce any noise ordinance violations, councilors approved the entertainment license with the restrictions proposed by McLaughlin and Neville by a vote of 6-1, with Leonard dissenting.

“We are committed to making big improvements to this place,” said the club’s Cardosi. “We want to be there long term and want to have a good relationship with the neighborhood.”

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