By Phil Colpas
About a dozen or so concerned citizens showed up June 28 at a workshop at Out-of-Door Academy to address concerns related to Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill’s request for a special exception that would allow the establishment to offer live music past 10 p.m. — the current cutoff time on Siesta Key.
Granting the request would require the county to issue an exception to its Unified Development Code, which prohibits live music after 10 p.m., and allows only recorded music to be played past that time. The request for a special exception does not include any changes to current decibel-level restrictions.
As part of the approvals process, the restaurant is required to submit concept plans. Gilligan’s representatives indicated there would be no changes to the restaurant’s structure, use or height. “The only main change is that real people will be playing music after 10 p.m. instead of canned music,” said Scott Smith, owner, whose business is at 5253 Ocean Blvd. in the Village.
Some concerned citizens who were present at the workshop indicated that they were residents of Ocean Boulevard and had multiple complaints against the Blase Cafe & Martini Bar, 5263 Ocean Blvd. “Noise levels have continued to be way above code,” yelled someone from the audience.
“It’s the hooting and hollering that spikes the decibel meters,” said Mike Holderness, who owns the nearby Siesta Key Beach Resort & Suites, 5311 Ocean Blvd. He also said that Blase Cafe’s disregard for the noise ordinance has cost him thousands of dollars in business.
Holderness suggested that Gilligan’s feature more mellow music that would “dissuade the crowds from getting loud.”
“There are six establishments within 50 feet of me that do have bands,” Smith responded. “I’m not looking for advice on what kind of music I should have.”
After hearing other complaints regarding the Blase Cafe, Smith said “I don’t think I should be held accountable for Blase Cafe.”
“Right now, we play recorded music at night; we’ve been doing that for 20 years,” Smith added. “We’re not looking for an exception to be louder, just to be able to play live music.”
Smith said he has three settings for music, with loud bands inside and more mellow acoustic music outside, and reiterated that he is still restricted by the existing noise ordinance.
“I’m not looking to do something else; I’m trying to do what everybody else is doing … most businesses in the Village already have a special exception,” Smith said. “Now, at 10 p.m., I’m required to switch over to recorded music. And that music is (often) louder.”
Gilligan’s currently closes at midnight during the week, and 2 a.m. on the weekends, said Smith, indicating that 2 a.m. is the latest he would close.
Currently, Smith said, his crowd leaves at 10 p.m. when the live music ends. Perhaps by midnight, there is another, younger crowd gathered primarily for pre-recorded dance music. “I’m asking to be allowed to play different kinds of music,” he said. “And if I’m granted this special exception, you will never know the difference.
“Thirty percent of this is because I want it, and 70 percent is because my customers want it,” Smith said. “I’ve had Gilligan’s for 20 years, and I love live music. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t afford to do this. I’m just trying to give my customers what they want.”
Proponents of the special exception also point to the added traffic with two separate crowds, when they could simply seek to retain and augment the initial crowd by extending hours of live entertainment.
The noise level decibel limits will remain unchanged from how they are now: DBA: 75 decibels before 10 p.m., 70 decibels after; DBC: 80 decibels before 10 p.m., 75 decibels after (dBA applies to mid-range frequencies, while dBC measures low and high frequencies).
Holderness expressed his concern for drums outside.
“Decibel meters mark the highest point,” Smith said. “So, if drums are spiking, we won’t be able to have them outside.”
The special exception process is continuing; the request will go to the county for final approval.