West Columbia brewery sued over outdoor concerts, city adjusts noise ordinance

Posted 7/5/23

With a West Columbia brewery having been sued due to the noise from its outdoor concerts, the city has passed a change to its noise ordinance.

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West Columbia brewery sued over outdoor concerts, city adjusts noise ordinance


With a West Columbia brewery having been sued due to the noise from its outdoor concerts, the city has passed a change to its noise ordinance.

Savage Craft Ale Works, which opened in early 2021, has riled residents in the surrounding neighborhood with the noise from its outdoor stage for a while now, with the Chronicle talking to several who said they were bothered back in the fall of that year.

Now, two of those residents, Diane Hare and Tim Smith, have filed suit against Savage Craft, alleging that the noise impact to their home on Spring Street, a block away (about 250 feet) from the brewery’s 430 Center St. location, disturbs them between 6:30 and 11 p.m. and sometimes later and has interfered with their health and wellbeing.

“We both are experiencing mental health disturbances and stress and anxiety,” reads the suit, which was filed in May.

“We have both lost enjoyment of our property,” the suit continues. “We are unable to enjoy movies and become distracted and irritated because the music is audible over a movie we are watching at the front of our house. ... We are also unable to enjoy being outside sitting on our porch,  or having company over due to the loud noise Savage Craft allows.”

Neither the brewery nor Hare and Smith responded to the Chronicle’s requests for comment.

The suit, West Columbia Council Member David Moye said, was key to council's recent push to amend its noise ordinance, establishing a Gateway Entertainment and Arts Area where different rules will apply to noise. The area stretches back about six blocks along Meeting Street from the Gervais Street Bridge, comprising the blocks on each side of the street. It contains the core of the city’s popular dining and nightlife area along State Street and two key outdoor music venues, Savage Craft and the city-owned Riverwalk Amphitheater.

The amendment to the noise ordinance, which passed final reading unanimously at a special called meeting June 19, requires businesses in the entertainment district to apply for a permit to host live music outdoors. The permits would, unless additional restrictions are deemed to be necessary, allow the business to have live music going as loud as 85 decibels between 10 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Thursday, and 10:30 a.m. and midnight Friday and Saturday and New Year’s Eve.

Before the amendment, businesses in the district were governed by the citywide noise ordinance, which disallows “the playing or operation of any ... loudspeaker or similar sound-producing or sound-emitting device or any musical instrument in such a manner, or with such volume, particularly during the hours between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., as to unreasonably disturb any person in the vicinity” but doesn’t put a specific decibel limit on such noise.

At the meeting, Mayor Tem Miles asserted the amendment will help with enforcement, allowing police officers who respond to noise complaints at spots with live music permits to determine first if the event is happening within the city’s prescribed hours and then take a sound reading from the edge of the property line closest to the complaining resident to determine if the noise is too loud.

Giving clear expectations will also make it easier for businesses like Savage Craft to comply, Miles said.

“It was important for us to recognize that that's really the character of that area and to establish some crew leader ground rules and procedures for those activities,” the mayor told the Chronicle, speaking to designating the area an entertainment district. “So the venue's would know what to expect and what the standards were and that our officers would know what to expect and what the standards were and that the folks who live around there would know what to expect and what standards were.”

As he has previously, Miles pushed back on the notion that residents shouldn’t expect such disturbances in the area, adding that it’s “not really been a neighborhood since 1978, since literally before I was born. It's been identified as the core business district for the city.”

Moye, whose council district includes part of the entertainment district, voted for the measure but emphasized he believes public hearings, which aren’t presently part of the permitting process, should be added. He believes residents should have an active voice in the process.

Miles disagrees, telling the Chronicle he doesn’t see the need to treat this any differently than an application for a business license, which doesn’t require a public hearing.

Moye added that he doesn’t think Savage Craft is behaving in any way maliciously when it comes to its live music.

“I sincerely believe that Savage when they went into this, they didn't think that there was going to be as much business driven by the live music as it ended up being,” he said, adding that Savage has done a lot to be less of a nuisance to their neighbors. “They've had to weed through and find people to run their sound that were used to doing it in jurisdictions that had rules in place that they had to operate in.”

The city sold Savage Craft its historic former fire station home after recruiting it to the area, and the brewery’s live music takes place on a patio that is partially public property. Asked if this adds to the responsibility the city feels to ease the situation with Savage Craft’s neighbors, Miles said it does, to an extent.

“I think the city has a responsibility and an interest because it's going on in an area where we've retained a public easement,” he said.

savage craft ale works, west columbia noise ordinance, mayor tem miles, council member david moye


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