More noise complaints for brewery

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Cops respond to complaints about live band on Saturday

The Aspen Brewing Co. faces two more citations for violating the city’s noise ordinance after police visited the Restaurant Row establishment twice on Saturday night in response to complaints.

A live band playing in the beer-drinking establishment prompted complaints from the owners of a neighboring penthouse, as has happened numerous times before this summer.

Police responded to the first call around 10:10 p.m., said C.J. Oliver with the city’s environmental health department, which is handling the citations. The cops asked the musicians to turn down their amplifiers, after recording decibel readings between 74 and 79 on the sidewalk at the building’s property line, Oliver said.

The city’s noise ordinance sets a limit of 60 decibels after 9 p.m.

After the cops left however, the complainant called back to report that the noise levels had gone back up. Police returned 15 to 20 minutes later, and again found noise levels above the limit, this time touching 80 decibels.

The brewery already is facing two noise ordinance violations. Representatives have pleaded not guilty, and the case is expected to go to a jury trial in municipal court later this fall. If the citations are upheld, the business faces a fine of between $100 and $2,650 for each offense.

Oliver, who has had to mediate numerous complaints between businesses and residents over noise, said the spat involving homeowner Natalia Shvachko and neighboring restaurants has escalated beyond anything he has seen before.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
An Aspen police officer demonstrates the use of a decibel meter on Tuesday afternoon in front of the Aspen Brewing Co. The meter readings ranged from the low 60s to the low 70s with noise from passing traffic and a few tables filled with outside diners adjacent to the street.

Shvachko recently asserted in court filings, connected to an ongoing case in which the city sued her and husband Michael Sedoy over building access, that noise issues have began affecting her health. The filing says she recently collapsed due to a lack of sleep, and that her 19-month-old child has developed a sleep disorder. The couple moved into the multi-million dollar penthouse apartment and another unit in the building last year.

Neighboring restaurants including Jimmy’s across the street from the penthouse; Square Grouper next door; and Ute City and Syzygy in the same building below have been hit with noise complaints from Shvachko as well this summer. The brewery is next door to the penthouse and shares a wall with the Ute City building, where the residence is.

The dispute has turned symbolic, and is seen by some as a test of Aspen’s values — whether the town should be more concerned with catering to the elite or maintaining a vibrant downtown nightlife.

Oliver said noise limits are enforced by the environmental health department — which also oversees restaurant food safety — because they pertain to public health. But a noise limit isn’t as black and white of an issue, he said, since there is debate about whether more noise is a good thing downtown. No one is arguing that unsafe food is a public benefit, Oliver said.

Duncan Clauss, Aspen Brewing Co. owner, said the dispute with the neighbors is draining time, energy and finances from more important matters, such as plans to expand beer production and land a statewide distribution deal — both of which are in the works, he said.

Oliver noted that his staff is working on a set of options for City Council to consider in November. Those options will include raising noise limits downtown, he said, although his department won’t be making a formal recommendation.

The brewery’s next municipal court date is Oct. 7. A jury may be impaneled that day.