Oregon bars with patios face time restrictions
By STEVEN DUBOIS
Of the Associated Press
PORTLAND — When some people want to party, others want to sleep.
Most everyone has been on both sides of that conflict, but members of the early-to-bed crowd lose nightly battles when they live next to a bar or tavern, and they've become increasingly sleep-deprived since Oregon passed a law prohibiting patrons from smoking indoors.
To soothe such complaints, members of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission are scheduled to vote Thursday on new time restrictions for bars with outdoor seating next to residential property.
In Portland, the state's most populous city, many neighborhood bars installed, expanded or spruced up their patio areas after the indoor-smoking ban took effect in January 2009. Now, even on cold, rainy evenings, there are no walls to absorb the laughter and loud voices.
“That's why you're seeing an explosion of these outdoor areas, because the customers have to have somewhere to go,” said Farshad Allahdadi, director of the commission's licensing services division. “And if they're going to stand out there, they are going to want to drink.”
Currently, amplified music at such bars must end by midnight, but sales and service can continue until last call at 2:30 a.m.
In the proposal before commissioners, amplified music would cease at 10 p.m., and sales and service would stop at 1 a.m. on weekends and 11 p.m. on weekdays.
Portland does not tally the complaints it receives about patio noise, but the number has soared in recent years, said Paul Van Orden, the city's noise control officer for the past 17 years. He attributes the increase to the city's growing population, not the indoor smoking ban.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who is expected to testify Thursday, and other city leaders want the patios closed by 10 p.m. on all nights. Ideally, they would like more control of the issue instead of playing by the liquor commission's one-size-fits-all rules. Van Orden, for one, questions whether the OLCC will employ a strong enforcement arm to ensure that bars follow an 11 p.m. deadline.
“Portland is finally becoming a more dense city and needs to have the checks and balances in terms of some rules and regulations,” Van Orden said. “So, one, you don't shut down the bars and put the nightclubs out of business but, two, you have a balance for the people who are trying to sleep.”
Though the new rules would apply statewide, Allahadi said Portland is far and away the epicenter of the patio problem.
In North Portland, conflict arose last August when The Albert, a 72-unit apartment building, opened next to Maui's, a bar with a large outdoor patio that includes Ping-Pong, foosball and picnic tables.
Yelena Khokhlova, The Albert's resident manager, said she immediately started getting complaints about late-night Ping Pong and other sounds coming from a patio packed with smokers. Tenants who live near Maui's are charged a cheaper rent. One of them, a woman who declined to be interviewed, transferred to an apartment on the other side of the building because of the noise, Khokhlova said.
Maui's owner Steve Mason has taken steps to help the tenants sleep. He stops the Ping Pong at 11 p.m., when he also closes the patio section closest to the apartments. The rest of the patio is open until 2:30 a.m. As with most bars, the noise picks up when the crowd spills out at the end of the evening.
“I live in the middle of the building, kind of away from the bar, but sometimes my windows are closed and I still wake up because of people yelling at 2:30 in the morning,” Khokhlova said.
Mason said he also has soundproofed the patio with rubber, Styrofoam and a new fence to dampen the noise, but there's only so much he can do.
“If you're renting an apartment right next to a bar, you're going to get some noise,” he said.