There is a wonderfully diverse music scene in the Capital District. Showcasing it properly is another matter, as venues must balance the musicians’ needs with those of their neighbors.
Swifty’s — on the Four Corners in Delmar — is one such venue. There have been a number of complaints from neighbors about the noise levels when bands have been playing outside for patrons.
The neighbors have a point: they shouldn’t be subjected to unwanted noise, especially at night. And, being in an otherwise peaceful neighborhood, they should expect some due consideration from Swifty’s and have the noise levels reduced. This is Delmar we’re talking about — not a tourist town such as Saratoga Springs, where you can hear live music blaring through downtown every weekend, or an urban center such as Albany or Troy.
Herein lies the rub. Suburban bars and restaurants should be allowed to have live music because it’s good for their business. They want people to linger longer so they can order a little extra food or drinks, and musicians — especially good ones — can help by entertaining the patrons. It’s also good for the local musicians, many of whom have day jobs, because they can earn a little extra money doing something they love. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
It’s also important for bars and restaurants to utilize their outdoor space, especially when the weather permits it. This is a region that enjoys outdoor dining in the summertime, and it would be foolish to keep bands inside when the majority of the patrons are outside.
However, when these bars and restaurants are within a short distance of residences — and in the suburbs, many of them are — it’s important the owners know what the town’s noise limits are, especially if the bands are going to play outside. Each town has its own noise ordinance, which is fairly easy to find on the Internet. Bethlehem’s noise ordinance states there can be no sound louder than 65 decibels between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Colonie’s noise ordinance is a little different, as it prohibits any sound louder than 75 dB between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Stay within those guidelines, and you will generally have the law on your side if a complaint is issued. Use a dB reader, if necessary, to make certain you’re in compliance.
Owners should not be afraid to tell their musicians how loud they can play when they’re outside, too. Many musicians are accommodating to reasonable requests because they want a good relationship with the owners, so they can come back and play the venue again — especially if they are otherwise treated well.
Of course, owners and musicians can do everything up to code and still receive noise complaints from neighbors. To that, we say the neighbors must be reasonable and agree to let the music continue if it is within the legal limits. Bars and restaurants have a right to keep their patrons entertained through live music, and musicians have a right to play their music.
Delmar readers can learn more about Swifty’s in our next edition.