Neighbors don’t think plan to cut Rye Tavern noise is good enough

The owners of the Rye Tavern realize they have a noise problem at their restaurant, and they think they have a solution.

Their neighbors aren’t convinced.

In October, neighbors of the popular Pinehills restaurant came before the Board of Selectmen to complain that music from the restaurant was too loud and could be heard as far as their homes. At the time, Rye Tavern co-owner Nathan Withington pushed back against the complaints, saying patrons have never complained about the volume, yet “people who live two football fields away continually call the police.” But now, having sat at the home of one of those who complained, his tune has changed.

Beverly Murphy, who lives on Hitching Post, where most of the complaints have come from, explained to the Board of Selectmen, Tuesday night, how Withington sat at her home while a wedding took place. In great detail, she described how the sound reached her home and how even efforts to reduce it, such as dropping the flaps on the tent or asking the DJ to turn down the volume, had little effect. At that point, she said, Withington admitted there was a problem. The wedding, it seemed, was louder at her home than at the restaurant, she said.

Having discovered the problem they once dismissed was real, Rye Tavern’s owners hired Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, a Sudbury-based acoustical engineering firm, to come up with a solution, according to attorney Bob Betters, who spoke for the restaurant. The first step was the simplest. The musical entertainment that often plays weekends would be entirely unamplified and reduced from three to two nights a week, he said. The restaurant has a permit that allows for two musicians and a microphone. Frequently, the performance have more people than permitted.

Reducing the noise created by weddings will be more complicated, Betters said. The restaurant would limit the number of weddings to eight a year. They would also  consider only allowing music to be played using a new sound system installed at the restaurant. The volume will be limited to 80 decibels. The typical volume level at weddings is 105 decibels, he said. Only DJs who have been prequalified on the equipment and agree to follow the new rules will be allowed to work there, Betters said. Other possible changes include requiring parties to end at 9 p.m. and the addition of special sound dampening tent flaps. Betters added that hosting weddings was an essential part of the Rye Tavern’s business.

“The sound is not going to disappear,” admitted Betters. The neighbors wish it would. Hitching Post resident Edward Murphy said that even if all the ideas Betters listed were implemented, it would only cut the sound problem by half. “That is not an adequate reduction in sound levels,” he said. Crowd noise is as big a factor as the music, he said. And that is far harder to control. He also said the restaurants owners had made no actual commitment to doing any of the things Betters described other than hiring prequalified DJs. Murphy estimated buying the new equipment could cost up to $40,000.

“I agree we have a problem,” Withington told selectmen, but the plan put forth would address it. “The music was loud, we’re trying to dampen it. You’re never going to make everyone happy.”  A new sound system would be sophisticated and costly, he admitted.

Selectmen took no action and will revisit the matter in a few weeks.

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