The general manager of the Aspen Brewing Co. and another employee pleaded not guilty Wednesday to violating the city’s noise ordinance, setting the stage for a trial in a case that has riled many in the community.
A trial date of Oct. 7 was set for Daniel Collins and Craig Turpin, both of whom were cited earlier this month by Aspen police after an officer found live music at the brew pub exceeding the city’s 60-decibel limit after 9 p.m.
Judge Brooke Peterson of Aspen municipal court told them that each citation carries a fine of up to $1,000, though the defendant is the Aspen Brewing Co. LLC, said Debbie Quinn, the city’s municipal prosecutor.
Natalia Shvachko, who lives in a condominium adjacent to the business and whose complaint led to one citation, attended the brief hearing with her husband, Michael Sedoy, whose complaint led to the other ticket.
According to police records, Shvachko has called the authorities more than a half dozen times to complain about noise from eateries and bars near her home on Aspen’s so-called Restaurant Row.
She and her husband paid about $6.3 million in 2011 for two units in the Ute City building, including a 3,500-square-foot penthouse on the third floor.
Collins was cited Aug. 2 after Aspen police officer Roderick O’Connor took a decibel reading from the couple’s deck that showed sound levels between 75 and 88 decibels, according to his report.
Turpin was cited Aug. 10 after Sedoy complained, Aspen police spokeswoman Blair Weyer said. In that instance, the level was between 74 and 82 decibels “depending on what the band was playing,” O’Connor wrote.
Inside the apartment with the doors closed, and facing the interior wall adjacent to the business, the decibel level ranged from 46 to 60, the police report says.
O’Connor and the couple discussed the quality-of-life issue the music has become.
“The noise is very annoying to them,” the report says. “We discussed the newspaper article that was in the Aspen Daily News ... Shvachko was unhappy about the attention.”
Both of Aspen’s newspapers have published letters to the editor about the couple’s complaints, with most voraciously decrying the effort to quash the downtown music.
Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss said after the hearing Wednesday that live music has been a staple at his business for more than three years. Like other business owners with live musicians, he said there had been few complaints until Sedoy and Shvachko moved in.
“I think it’s an unfortunate situation for everybody involved,” Clauss said. “The owners of that apartment clearly didn’t realize that they were buying an apartment on Restaurant Row in Aspen.”
He said nearly every restaurant on the street has some form of entertainment, whether it’s live music a few nights a week or a “salsa night” like Jimmy’s An American Restaurant hosts.
“It’s the vibrancy of the town,” Clauss said. “And [residents] who didn’t really realize what they were moving into are causing quite an issue.”
He said he was surprised by the citations, considering that he’s told Shvachko and Sedoy to call him on his cell phone if they have an issue with the music.
“They’ve never once called me to say, ‘Hey, it’s a little loud,’” Clauss said. “They’ve always gone straight to the police, which is unfortunate.”
A small public address system is sometimes used for the music, but when Collins received his citation, a musician was playing acoustically, Clauss said.
He called the live shows a big draw for his business, but the capacity of the space is only 65 people.
“A crowd for us is 40 people,” said Clauss, who has 10 days to decide whether he wants a jury trial.
He said Sedoy and Shvachko also have complained about restaurant workers taking out trash and recycling late at night. Dumping out glass bottles is far louder than live music, but both are part of “the nature of living in the downtown core,” Clauss said.
Shvachko and Sedoy declined comment after Wednesday’s hearing. They then met with Quinn, who, along with City Attorney Jim True, is suing the couple on behalf of the city for a separate issue.
The city filed the lawsuit last month to force JW Ventures, which developed the Ute City building, and Sedoy and Shvachko to comply with the building permit that was issued for the development.
The city contends that affordable housing tenants in the building — along with disabled people, under the Americans with Disabilities Act — should be allowed to use a front staircase and an elevator, respectively, that are accessed off Hopkins Avenue.
Currently, affordable housing residents are using a service entrance located in the alley because Shvachko and Sedoy have locked the only door that accesses the elevator in the front of the building. In December, the couple told the Aspen Daily News that they bought the properties with the understanding that the door would be for their exclusive use.
Bill Seguin, the Aspen Brewing Co.’s landlord, also attended Wednesday’s hearing. He said he was sorry that his tenant was having neighbor difficulties and called the complaints about noise “stupid.”
“I actually built that structure about 30 years ago, and I never had a problem,” he said. “I just introduced myself to the people next door and asked them what they were thinking when they bought the place. They said they really didn’t think much about noise, but [that] there’re are laws to protect them.
Seguin said he thinks Shvachko and Sedoy have “just caused a firestorm in the community, and it’s nice to see the community speaking up about this.
“I mean, what are the values of the downtown core of Aspen?” he said. “Is it to become an old people’s home?”