Sound Barrier

The City of Glendale got ripped last April by bar and strip club owners who felt that the city was trying to put them out of business with strict live-entertainment ordinances. Amid calls for Mayor Joe Rice's head, a group called the Glendale Tea Party dispatched strippers to register voters and virtually swept the city council elections with pro-nightclub candidates.

Six months after those elections, a new bar brawl has erupted. The dispute between Jimmy's Bar & Grille, which has been open since 1990, and a new hotel across the street has taken center stage in the small city just east of Denver. The Homestead Village hotel has sued Jimmy's in state court because, it claims, the bar is so noisy that people staying at the hotel can't sleep.

Jimmy's owner Jim Sullivan is confounded by the lawsuit. "We've been here for nine years, and this hotel comes in and seems to want to see Jimmy's gone," Sullivan says. "I think the bigger problem is lack of due diligence on their part. The real-estate guy for Homestead Village should have looked at who their neighbor was before selecting this site. Maybe they think we're just a bunch of local hicks and their big public company can have their way."

Homestead Village is suing Jimmy's because it believes the bar is violating a state ordinance that says nighttime noise emanating from a business must remain under 55 decibels. At a preliminary hearing on July 28, Arapahoe County District Court Judge John Leopold issued a temporary restraining order against the bar, prohibiting it from creating noise that Homestead Village attorney Chris Toll deems "a danger of real, immediate, and irreparable harm to [Homestead Village's] business."

Homestead Village asserts that the noise coming from the bar is consistently in the 60- to 65-decibel range and that Jimmy's has violated the restraining order eighteen times since it was issued. Hotel attorneys want Judge Leopold to find the bar in contempt the next time the two businesses meet in court, on November 17.

The City of Glendale has managed to stay out of the fray despite the fact that it was instrumental in helping the hotel, which is part of a national chain based in Maryland, set up shop across the street from Jimmy's. The city spent $350,000 to demolish pre-existing buildings across Birch Street from Jimmy's in order to make room for the hotel.

Samantha Marcantonio, Jimmy's general manager, says the clash between the two businesses began when construction started on the hotel. She says the hotel's construction company was using part of Jimmy's parking lot to store its equipment. When the construction company refused to relocate its supplies, Marcantonio says she had to get a court order to make them move. From there, the situation amplified.

"It should have been a good relationship," she continues. "We figured that we'd get a lot of business from the people staying at the hotel. We even let them borrow some of our sound equipment for their grand opening in the spring of 1997. But that summer, we started getting phone calls from the police department saying it was getting noise complaints from the hotel.

"I felt like I tried everything to get this resolved just between myself and Amy Machamer [the GM of Homestead Village]," Marcantonio says. "We even got the chief of police in to mediate. But it was always about her. There was no middle ground. She wanted us to change the entire format we've had here since 1990."

That format includes live bands and music on the patio that faces the hotel. During the summer months, Marcantonio says, patio entertainment is the bar's biggest attraction. She maintains that shutting off the outside music would have killed Jimmy's business.

But when Jimmy's didn't agree to shut down the outdoor music, Homestead Village dug up an obscure city ordinance prohibiting the use of outdoor speakers--everywhere.

"I got a call from the chief of police in the summer of '97 about the outdoor-speaker law," says Marcantonio. "I couldn't believe [Machamer] was digging through the city law books to shut me down, but I had no choice and agreed to shut down the outdoor speakers.

However, Marcantonio says, the next day a friend told her to take a drive around Glendale to Chile's, Target, Wendy's and Mervyn's. "Turns out that all of them have outdoor speakers," she says. "I called the chief back and told him if I had to comply, then so did everyone else. So the city council rewrote the law. But I still had Machamer complaining every night, and the cops had to respond to all her complaints. I ended up spending the entire summer of '97 out in my parking lot taking decibel readings with the cops and trying to keep things quiet." Marcantonio says she even took coffee to the hotel security guard to try to figure out how to resolve the problem.

She insists that the decibel-level problem has been resolved, and the Glendale police agree.

"When Samantha says she spent the whole summer of 1997 in Jimmy's parking lot, it's not far from the truth," says Sergeant Victor Ross of the Glendale PD. "We worked nights with her and Jimmy's sound guy to get the decibel levels right. We even let them borrow our decibel meter for thirty or forty days. As a result, we're not taking action against anyone."

Machamer refuses to comment on the problems between her hotel and Jimmy's. But attorney Toll says Jimmy's still isn't complying with the state law, regardless of whether the Glendale police take action.

"Jimmy's has argued that the decibel problem is the result of ambient noise," says Toll, "but the only ambient noise that's a factor is from traffic leaving the bar. All you have to do is go over there on a weekend, and it becomes painfully obvious that ambient noise isn't the problem. Besides, guests don't complain about traffic noise. No one has ever said that Jimmy's Grille is fine and that the street noise is keeping them awake."

But the dispute is keeping the Glendale police awake. Sargent Ross says that despite the restraining order, his department still receives complaints from the hotel. "We've just got to ride the fence on it as long as it stays out of the criminal realm," explains Ross. "As long as Jimmy's isn't sending bouncers over to rough up Homestead Village customers or Homestead Village isn't going over and smashing Jimmy's equipment, we'll let it remain in the realm of the civil courts."

Mayor Joe Rice, who's had his share of controversy, is also staying out of this. "As far as this dispute goes," says Rice, "the city isn't in the marriage-counseling business. My attitude is, 'Didn't you see the bar across the street when you picked this spot?'


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