After years of entertaining customers with live music, the Black Swan pub has been asked by the village of Tivoli to turn down the volume and turn off the amplification.
On April 19, 11 Tivoli residents met with Mayor Bryan Cranna and Mike Nickerson, the owner of the Black Swan, to discuss the issue of noise emanating from the Broadway pub in what neighbors claimed was a violation of both the 10pm local noise ordinance and the site plan conditions for the bar.
While the site plan itself has not been located, residents claimed that it dictated that only acoustic music, not amplified music, was allowed at the bar, and minutes from meetings in 2006 that have been published on the Tivoli village web site appear to confirm that.
Contacted after the April 19 meeting, Cranna called it “a conversation between the neighbors that had expressed some concerns about the loud music that was coming out of the Swan … in the late hours.”
He added, “I would say it was a successful meeting. We came up with some ideas and suggestions for the Swan with regards to curbing the music, insulating more of the building to try to prevent the spill from going out into the streets and to the neighbors.”
However, at least one of the residents at the meeting, Bard College professor and author Susan Fox Rogers, disagreed with that assessment in a letter she sent to Cranna and the Observer on April 20.
Just hours after the meeting, she said in her letter, she was kept awake again by music from the Swan, called the Sheriff and Nickerson to no avail and finally called the mayor at home at 2am.
“The discussion was, as you noted, ‘cordial'”, Rogers wrote to Cranna. “But as with all of these meetings (we have had several), we came away with nothing…. Right now, I am so tired from being kept awake until two in the morning that I can barely form a sentence. I am beyond exhausted from lack of sleep–not just last night, but almost every night in the past few months–and from the sheer aggravation of this situation.”
The pub owner remembers the call he received that night from Rogers on his cell phone. “She called at about 1:30am, I reacted immediately. I turned the music down,” he told the Observer.
“At the meeting, to try to help stem this problem … I gave them my cell phone number to call,” Nickerson said. “When I’m inside the place and no one says anything… especially that night when it was right after the meeting, I thought I was doing a better job that night of keeping the volume down.”
Cranna understands how Rogers could get the impression that nothing was resolved at the meeting because, he said, he would not take any action without looking at all the facts. “I didn’t have a copy of the site plan in front of me, I did not have a copy of the minutes, so I specifically did not know at the time what I could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to,” he added.
The next day, Cranna said he reviewed the minutes of the planning board meetings at which the missing site plan was discussed and realized that the pub was not allowed to have amplified music.
“We issued a letter to him that says, ‘Look, we want you to stay in Tivoli, you know, because we want to see a successful business there. But you have to follow what you agreed to.’ And it seems that now since that letter was sent, that is … the case,” said Cranna.
According to Cranna, the Black Swan is no longer allowed to play amplified music and he said he has not received any complaints since the letter went out.
Asked about the letter, Nickerson said he has not received it. But, he added, he has taken steps on his own to resolve the issue in any case.
“I have been lowering the volume, and I’ve actually cancelled a couple of [full-on electric] bands I felt would be problematic,” said Nickerson. “But the main complaint is generally about the drums, which are an acoustic instrument.”
Rogers agreed that things have been better since the night of the meeting and hopes they continue that way.
Nickerson noted that his pub is actually the only place in the village now for live entertainment. “When the pub first opened, it was one of three, four places that had music in town, and now it is down to being basically the only one attracting people that way, giving them that kind of option,” he said.
As for the noise issue, he said he would prefer to focus on the noise ordinance that mandates a 60-decibel limit after 10pm.
No matter what kind of music is being performed, he said, “there is a set decibel level in the zoning [after 10pm] that I don’t reach.”