Hancock County

Should bars close earlier in Bay St. Louis?

The Depot District in Bay St. Louis in 2011. The city council held a workshop Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, to hear concerns from residents over the loud noises and bright lights from the district late at night.
The Depot District in Bay St. Louis in 2011. The city council held a workshop Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, to hear concerns from residents over the loud noises and bright lights from the district late at night. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Bar and tavern owners are worried they may be put out of business as the city council mulls over a noise ordinance and other restrictions on the entertainment district.

Dozens of residents attended the council’s workshop Monday night, many of them airing grievances with the city’s liberal policy on loud music, lights and hours of operation for venues along the beach downtown and in the Depot District.

Many are calling for the council to restrict music after 10 p.m. or to even restrict bars from remaining open later than 10 p.m. Others said midnight would be fine with them, and some said 2 a.m. is a more reasonable hour.

It appeared the city, for the most part, is picking up where it left off before the shocking death of Police Chief Mike De Nardo on Thursday.

One woman told the council she is not only bothered by the music, but also the neon lights some business owners place in their windows. Another said she is constantly annoyed by loud music coming from vehicles that drive by her home at night.

One resident even said music over 75 decibels is considered a suitable method of torture for use by clandestine interrogators.

Only one resident voiced his approval of the activity at the nightclubs near his residence, saying he enjoyed the sound of city tax revenue.

“What I hear is the sound of the value of my property going up,” he said. “Trust me, I hear the music, and all I hear is ‘ka-chink, ka-chink, ka-chink.’”

Roger Kaplinger, owner of Buoy’s Bar on Beach Boulevard, stood with other bar owners in opposition to any ordinance that would restrict a venue’s hours of operation.

He said most patrons don’t even begin a night out until 10:30 p.m. or later.

Restrictions on hours would likely force him to close his business, he said. Several other bar owners, specifically those who own venues in the traditionally late-night Depot District, agreed.

Councilman Doug Seal surprised the crowd with a strange legal anecdote about noise disturbances.

“Did you know that it’s against state law to blow your horn and wave at your neighbor?” Seal said. “It’s the law. You’re only supposed to use your horn in the case of an emergency.”

Seal offered it up as an example of subjective legislation, saying everyone has a different level of tolerance when it comes to loud music, late hours and bright lights.

The councilmen decided that a committee of citizens — having an equal number of both residents and bar owners — should tackle the issue. The council passed around a sign-up sheet for anyone interested in sitting on the committee, which will study the issue, come up with a compromise and report back to the council at a date yet to be determined.

Wesley Muller: 228-896-2322, @WesleySMuller

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