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Charlie's Not So Cheerful About New Sound Permit Rules

Reshma Kirpalani/KUT News

Tamara Hoover describes her East Austin establishment, Cheer Up Charlie's, as more than just a bar. 

"It's actually a community project," Hoover says. "People from the community coming in, bringing their acts, bringing their music, bringing their charities, and it's everybody's home." 

But recently, the bar has received complaints from another nearby community, the Guadalupe Association for Improved an Neighborhood. 

"I don't want their music coming into my house," says John Plyler, the vice president of the neighborhood association. "I'd like to be able to go to sleep without having to hear their music. Or wake up and not be able to go back to sleep because of their music."

Plyler, who lives 455 feet away from Cheer Up Charlie's, says it was never a matter of the music being too loud, but rather, a matter of it playing too late at night.  

The manager of the City of Austin's Music Office, Don Pitts, said that there were a significant number of complaints against Cheer Up Charlie's, primarily because the bar repeatedly played music past its curfew.

"The only option we have as staff that is left is an agreement between the owner and the neighborhood associations that are affected," Pitts said.

Last week, the Austin Music Commission met with both parties to discuss the bar's Outdoor Music Venue permit. When the two groups reached a stalemate, the rules from a new city ordinance took effect.

The new ordinance requires bars within 600 feet of a home to stop playing amplified music outside at 10 p.m. on weekends. That curfew used to be 11:30 p.m.  The cutoff time during the week is now 8 p.m., revised down from 10 p.m.

"I feel as if the neighborhood is going a little bit above what is reasonable in this case because we're not offending them with sound, we're offending them with a visualization of us breaking a rule," Hoover said. "I really don't believe that's how the rule should be enforced."

The bar owner says the new permit will silence her most profit-driven hours, between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., severely undercutting her revenue. She also points out that hers is only the first in a string of bars that will be affected by the revised sound ordinance. According to the city, fourteen establishments throughout Austin have already been affected by the new rules.

"These bars are very small on this street," Hoover says about the bars on East 6th street. "Forty-nine capacity at most [for the] bars or restaurants that you visit on this street. So a lot of us are using our outside space. If this rule stays in place, you'll see a lot of changes."

Currently, with the bar's new permit in place, Hoover and her staff are blasting Twitter with the hashtag #ACPR, or Austin Collective Permit Reform, to promote their cause. Hoover also plans to appeal the permit.

Meanwhile, Plyler says that even if Hoover's appeal is approved, he will continue his efforts on before of the neighborhood, especially elderly residents.

"I do have other neighbors who call and ask me, 'What's that music?'" Plyler says. "And I say, 'Well, the music you're hearing now is coming from Cheer Up Charlie's.'"

Reshma Kirpalani works as a freelancer at KUT News.
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