By Evan Milberg
Once again, MacDowell Brew Kitchen is fighting to keep the party alive. Last year, the bar’s sandy beach area was in jeopardy due to a zoning violation, but was saved by a 5-1 vote by the Leesburg Town Council. This year, a sound ordinance limiting the amount of public sound in Leesburg to 70 decibels could mean the end of live music at MacDowell’s and other businesses in Leesburg.
To combat the ordinance, MacDowell’s is hoping to garner public support through a Change.org petition,“Save Our Sounds.” The petition asks the Council “to make a rational decision allowing a more reasonable [decibel] range … from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and from 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.” Among the businesses supporting MacDowell with the petition is Shoe’s Cup & Cork, another Leesburg bar that residents have filed a noise complaint against.
“We don’t want any trouble,” says Nile Schnibbe, owner of MacDowell. “We want to get along with everyone. But yeah, 11 p.m. would be great for us. It frustrated us when [the ordinance] came up, so we had to make our voice heard and let people know that we’re not okay with the stricter rules.”
Leesburg Vice Mayor Dave Butler agrees. He says the problem with the ordinance is that the decibel restriction is arbitrary and is only enforced when there is a noise complaint. “My conclusion is that the music at MacDowell and Shoe’s has been a bit loud at times, I’ll admit that,” Butler says. “But what’s the right number for an ordinance? The current one, to me, is not workable. If we enforced it, it would be devastating to all the businesses.”
Shortly after MacDowell’s petition was released, Butler replied with a response indicating he agreed that 70 decibels was “probably too low to continue to have a viable downtown.”
On April 8th there was a community meeting and demonstration at the Leesburg Rose Garden where a musician tested sound levels at a distance to determine how loud the music actually is. Tomorrow the Council will further discuss the sound ordinance and could vote on it during the meeting.
Chart sources: Gcaudio; Industrial Noise Control; Purdue; Asha; dnitzer; Control Noise