ALRC votes to separate license renewal after MNA request
The City of Madison Alcohol Licensing Review Committee voted Wednesday night (May 22) to separate Plan B Nightclub’s (924 Williamson Street) license renewal and consider it at a special hearing on June 3. The separation was requested by the Marquette Neighborhood Association, in a letter, citing unresolved noise issues since the nightclub opened in 2009.
While the typical nightclub noise has largely been addressed, at least three households on the 900 block of Jenifer Street continue to cite lost sleep from low bass frequency noise emanating from Plan B. Both the club’s owners, and an audio specialist they hired to assess the location, agree bass noise is being transmitted through the roof of the club; housed in an older concrete block building that used to house Star Photo, a commercial photo processing business.
For Plan B owners Rico Sabatini and Cory Gresen, the complaints from the neighborhood seem like moving goal posts and said as much in an impassioned letter to the ALRC in advance of the meeting.
“Plan B has become a vital member of the neighborhood. We have been a significant supporter to the local Marquette Neighborhood(MNA) festivals, donating more than $10,000 in the last 3 years alone. In addition, Plan B has been involved in many community projects that benefit members of the Madison community in and out of the neighborhood.”
Indeed at least one in-person speaker and three letters of opposition to separation were received by the ALRC. The opposition included former Dane Country Board Member Dick Wagner and former MNA President Scott Thornton who both cited Plan B’s positive impact on the neighborhood both for commerce and support of the LGBT community which is a strong part of the neighborhood.
Wagner, who is gay, said he is bothered that Plan B is not accepted in the community despite the motto on the nearby community center proclaiming “A Place For All People”.
“A gay bar is one more cherished institution to have in the neighborhood, at least that is my view, and one I would have expressed had the neighborhood association done any communicating with its current members like myself.” Wagner, who is also a past president of MNA, wrote.
Micheal Jacob, president of MNA, spoke to the request for separation made by the association, saying they did not take the action lightly and highlighted the positive impact that Plan B has had in the neighborhood.
“The request for separation has not been taken lightly and yet it was unanimous by the Marquette Association Board,” Jacob said. “I think the main thing is to make sure that progress continues and that we do get to the resolution we need to, I think its at hand we just need to finish it off and doing so through separation is one important step in that.”
The upcoming separation hearing is now the second straight for Plan B; last year (June 2012) the ALRC renewed their license with the caveat that Plan B continue to work with the neighborhood. The MNA formed a special committee which includes Gresen and Sabatini, Mark Woulf a non-voting ALRC member representing the Mayor’s office, MNA Board members, the affected neighbors, and Sixth District Alder Marsha Rummel
Read a brief history of the Plan B noise issue here
Since then the committee has met twice. After the first meeting in September, Plan B made additional improvements by installing interior roof insulation which is in addition to bass traps and a bass limiter that was installed earlier in the year.
The neighbors contend the problem will not be fixed unless the roof is insulated from above using sheets of mass loaded vinyl to dampen roof vibration. Alder Rummel has described the roof as beating like a drum which sends the bass sound uphill toward Jenifer Street.
Citing ongoing and cordial dialogue with the most active of the neighbors, Gresen and Sabatini wrote that they were very surprised at the MNA Board’s separation request even while they were still actively working with the committee.
In addressing the committee Rico Sabatini noted that MNA was alone in requesting separation and that other key city entities and officials were not including: Alder Marsha Rummel, Madison Police, the City Attorney’s office, and the Mayor’s Office.
“I thought the ALRC granted us a proper framework in order to try to solve a problem that a few people have. Separation is sanction that should be reserved for irresponsible license holders and I don’t believe that Corey and I and the Plan B staff fall in that category.” Sabatini said.
“To have our livelihood threatened by three to four households doesn’t seem fair. We aren’t opppsed to going above and beyond what we need to do, we just can’t bankroll the entire process.”
Alder Rummel tried to cut through the ancillary feelings surrounding the issue by reiterating that Plan B is supported by the neighborhood in almost all aspects.
“It isn’t so much about their business at all, I think its about their building…everyone I know supports the business more or less given that its a bar and it has its impacts but, aside from that, its the building and the roof we would just like to fix so we don’t have to think about each other except that they’re [Plan B] a business that adds a lot of fun for people and that’s about it.” Rummel said.
Alder Lisa Subeck while questioning Sabatini said “I want to make clear to you that separation is not a punishment. Separation just means we are going to talk about the license as opposed to approving it in one block.”
Alder Shiva Bidar-Silaf reiterated this point by adding that the process is a vehicle and one should not infer severity of a problem because each case is different. Bidar-Silaf noted in her first year on the ALRC they separated a license because of the time of day delivery trucks were servicing licensee’s establishment.
Despite this setback, Plan B’s owners testified that they would continue to work with the neighborhood. An initiative offered last year by the neighbors to hold a mutual fundraiser to help pay for additional roof insulation has been gaining steam since the last special MNA committee meeting on April 8.
Speaking in support of the separation were representatives of the three Jenifer households including Dick Guyot who offered a compliment to the Plan B owners saying the noise level has dropped but he can still hear and feel the bass in his bed, sometimes over the television.
“But it is much lower, because when they first started four years ago it was so preposterous, it was incredible, and so they have done a great job.” Guyot said.
The ALRC voted to separate the license on a voice vote, the official results were not available at press time.
Plan B’s license will be considered at the ALRC’s city-wide separation hearing scheduled for Monday June 3, 2013 at 6 p.m.
Read the MNA letter to the ALRC here
Read the 2011 sound study here
Read the 2012 sound study here
If I could have the applicants come and say they are going to insulate the roof and we can work together on a fundraiser to pay for that and I would be really happy, and I would say we have succeeded.
It isn’t so much about their business at all, I think its about their building…everyone I know supports the business more or less given that its a bar and it has its impacts but, aside from that, its the building and the roof we would just like to fix so we don’t have to think about each other except that they’re [Plan B] a business that adds a lot of fun for people and that’s about it.
“If you all wouldn’t mind asking that question I think that would help resolve what you should do next