Outdoor dining music noise complaints? St. Charles says "Acoustic, yes. Amplified, no."
Through expanded outdoor dining options, St. Charles officials have tried to create ways to help struggling restaurants and bars survive the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in St. Charles and other towns, there's been a downside: an uptick in noise complaints from residents bothered by outdoor music performances.
Now St. Charles officials are trying to strike a balance by implementing a temporary ban on amplified outdoor music. Or, as St. Charles Ward 4 Alderman David Pietryla termed it: "Acoustic, yes. Amplified, no."
Pietryla and fellow Ward 4 Alderman Lora Vitek detailed the issue at Monday's St. Charles planning and development committee meeting after receiving complaints from residents.
The aldermen unanimously approved a temporary measure to allow only acoustic music outdoors unless it's a permitted event. St. Charles Community and Economic Development Director Rita Tungare defined it as a ban on live or recorded music amplified by a loudspeaker.
Other municipalities in the area face similar noise issues while trying to meet the needs of struggling establishments.
Just as St. Charles closed portions of First Street and Walnut Avenue to vehicular traffic to allow restaurants more space for outdoor dining, Arlington Heights officials shut down Vail Avenue and Campbell Street.
The village also saw an increase in noise complaints from nearby residents. The Arlington Heights village board even gave Manager Randy Recklaus the authority to shut down live music at any business where the problem becomes significant.
In Wheaton, City Manager Mike Dzugan said the city hasn't received any noise complaints from residents. The Downtown Wheaton Association said in a statement last month "our focus at this moment is to do what we can to help our restaurants and retailers get through the next several months ahead."
When pandemic restrictions ease to the point where indoor dining and bar service is allowed again in St. Charles, the music will move back inside. Until then, officials want to keep the city unplugged.
"We've talked about some models that we've seen in Chicago and other suburbs where the acoustic works," Vitek said. "There may be opportunities for us to talk with businesses and maybe allow special instances or special event-type permits, but just in general I think what we're finding is that the amplified is just too loud without really any sort of buffer."