Friday, June 5, 2009

Music or No Music at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack Sonoma Restaurant?

Emmy Kaplan, owner of new Sonoma Restaurant
Emmy's Spaghetti Shack
6411 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476
Hours: Sun–Thurs 11:30am–11:00pm
Fri & Sat 11:30am–12:00am

(see former post)

Thu 6/4/09 6 PM
No music for Emmy's yet

Angry neighbors have refused to accept a Planning Commission decision and now the Sonoma City Council will have to decide whether or not to let Emmy's Spaghetti Shack have music.

On May 14, after hours of heated debate, the Planning Commission granted Emmy Kaplan a temporary use permit to allow acoustic and prerecorded music at her new restaurant, the former Deuce, at 691 Broadway, during specific times of the week. Neighbors of the property vehemently opposed the decision, saying the noise would ruin the tranquility of the neighborhood. Last Friday, a sizeable contingent of neighbors filed an appeal, asking the City Council to re-examine the Planning Commission's decision. It was signed by 33 residents whose properties are within earshot of the restaurant.

"There's a feeling that the Planning Commission hasn't really reviewed this and what it will mean for the neighborhood," said Elizabeth Monnet, a resident of First Street West. Until the appeal is heard, the commission's decision is suspended, in this case until the July 1 council meeting, according to Sonoma Planning Director David Goodison. At that time, opponents and supporters of the music use permit will again be allowed to address the council. Until then, Emmy's Spaghetti Shack will remain quiet.

"It's a real buzz kill," said Kaplan, adding that she learned the day of her grand opening that the permit was suspended. "We had DJs planned for the whole summer."

Kaplan said once she was granted the permit she began booking acts eager to perform in Sonoma. She shelled out for deposits on DJs and acoustic musicians and sunk cash into new sound equipment for the restaurant, all of which could be lost if the council decides to pull her permit. Kaplan was born and raised in the Valley, she opened her first restaurant of the same name in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco, and after years of working in the City, decided she wanted to raise her son in the Valley where she grew up. She took over Deuce restaurant and began to transform it into a second Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, which she dreamed would have live music just like her San Francisco location.

When she began researching the permitting issues around live music, she found her options were confusing and limited. City officials suggested she apply for a permit that would give her the privileges of a nightclub, with music playing late into the evening. Prior to the Planning Commission meeting, the city sent a letter to all the neighbors that outlined her request for a nightclub use permit, sparking an immediate and heated response from residents who didn't want their neighborhood to become the focus of a raucous party scene.

"It's become more of a response against the night club concept, which I never proposed," Kaplan said, explaining that she wants to run a restaurant with music patrons could enjoy while eating, not a nightclub. "People are against the business before they know what the business is, which I don't understand."

The day of the Planning Commission meeting, Kaplan amended her request, asking instead for a permit to have live acoustic and pre-recorded music during specific hours and days each month. During the meeting, many of the neighbors asked the Planning Commission to suspend making a decision until they had more time to process the change to the proposal. The commission instead decided to grant a temporary, six-month permit to see how the noise impacts the neighbors.

From Monnet's point of view, "the 33 people who signed the appeal all have different concerns. However, I think we are all in agreement that the Planning Commission rushed into a vote without working out some of the details relating to this new music permit," Monnet pointed out that, "For example, what is acoustic music? It hasn't been defined."

Monnet said the neighbors are not against the restaurant, but want more oversight of the process, including a more complete understanding of how the music levels will be monitored.

"It's not like Bernal Heights where you can't hear a damn thing over the traffic," Monnet said. "Because we're in this Valley with these mountains behind us, the acoustics are brilliant."

Monnet added that she has concerns about safety if a steady stream of patrons, who have been drinking, pour out of the restaurant. Kaplan has already promised she will provide security at her restaurant to keep any rowdy customers in line, but said she does not anticipate having this problem and employed the security guards in an attempt to appease the neighbors.

"Posting a security guard at the door will not help control what goes on outside the club - in the parking lot and on the street - regardless of the good intentions of the owner," Monnet wrote in a letter to the City Council. "For this reason, we urge this commission to solicit input from federal, state and local law enforcement before any vote to establish a nightclub in Sonoma."

Kaplan wants a chance to prove that she will be a good neighbor, including respecting the city's noise ordinance. "There are laws on noise, which I was not going to break," she said.

Kaplan also pointed out there are numerous restaurants throughout the Valley that frequently have live and pre-recorded music without bothering with permits, including the two prior restaurants that occupied that venue, Deuce and Au Relais.

"There's always been live music at that venue, except for when it was a morgue," Kaplan said, referring to a time when the location housed a funeral home. "It's almost as if I'm being punished for asking for a permit. I should have not asked and then I could have been grandfathered in."

--- end ---

May 22, 2009
Six-month permit granted for Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack
Walt Williams Special to the Sun

Walking into the Sonoma Planning Commission meeting last Thursday, one could see that something important was about to take place. Often sparsely attended, every seat was filled, with people sitting in the aisle. Two factions were there to plead their cases. One faction consisted of residents near the site at 691 Broadway who had banded together to stop what one called the “nightmare nightclub.” And the other comprised friends of Emmy Kaplan who had rallied to express a message of change, hoping that Sonoma was getting a new place to dance and listen to music.

In the middle of it all was Kaplan, who had written up an addendum to her original project narrative. Many of the neighbors envisioned a late, loud party environment with live amplified music outside every night. Kaplan attempted to quell those fears with her amended handout.

Jim Mayer, who lives at 720 Broadway, summed up the feeling of most of the neighbors. “This is a mixed-use area,” he said, “and businesses close at 9:00, people will be in the streets, smoking, talking loudly. You have to ask yourself, ‘Would you like this in your backyard?’”

Brian Borges, who lives at 808 Broadway, countered, “The intention is not to create a big party scene, but create something for the community. Emmy grew up here and now wants to return and do something good for the community. We should support that.”

Commission member Ray Gallian noted that support for a permit was running at about 2-to-1 among those in attendance. The commission eventually voted 7 to 1 to grant Kaplan a temporary permit, for six months. Under that permit, no live amplified music is permitted. Instead, pre-recorded music will be allowed outdoors from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, as well as acoustic (non-amplified) live music Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pre-recorded and acoustic music will also be allowed indoors during normal hours of operation daily from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. All music must conform to a maximum sound level of 60 decibels in the daytime (up to 9 p.m.) and 50 decibels at night (after 9 p.m.). Planning Commission Chairman Michael George noted that the decibel reading for conversations at the meeting itself were registering over 70 decibels.

“I want to be a very good neighbor,” Kaplan said. “It’s not a rowdy nightclub – it’s a restaurant.” Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack is scheduled to open next Friday, May 29.

Other planning commission approvals included a one-year extension of an approved exception for a secondary arbor at 226 E. MacArthur St., an exception to the side yard setback to allow for a carport at 558 Second St. E., operation of a mobile food service trailer at 1001 Broadway (in front of Old School skate shop), legalizing restaurant use at 897 West Napa Street (Tortilleria Jalisco), and expanding and remodeling 19270 Sonoma Highway (Sonoma Rentals).

The commission rejected a proposal to remove two redwood trees from 301 E. MacArthur St. and discussed at length the rezoning of two residential properties to allow for their use by Vintage House Senior Center. The meeting was adjourned 30 minutes after midnight.

--- end ---

Fri 5/15/09 5 PM
New restaurant gets temporary music permit

Thursday's meeting of the Sonoma Planning Commission was like a scene from the 1983 classic "Flashdance" when all of Sonoma's young hipsters came out to support the approval of another live music venue in Sonoma, while the older neighbors just want those darn kids to turn off that racket.

In the end, a compromise was reached when the commission agreed to grant a six-month temporary use permit for music at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, which will replace Deuce Restaurant, to see how the noise impacts the neighborhood. The audience filled the Community Meeting Room and poured out into the hallway during what had to be one of the most well attended planning commission meetings in recent history. While the commission had a packed agenda of eight items, almost everyone in the room was there for item four, a request by restaurateur Emmy Kaplan for a use permit for live music. Kaplan recently purchased Deuce Restaurant at 691 Broadway, which she will transform into Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, providing a second location to her successful restaurant of the same name in Bernal Heights in San Francisco.

"I wanted to create a restaurant here that is affordable, that appeals to all types of people," Kaplan said. Initially, Kaplan sought a nightclub use permit that would have allowed her to amplify music into the night. But the backlash to that proposal was immediate and forceful as many neighbors said they would fight allowing the usually quiet neighborhood from becoming a nightly hot spot. So Kaplan updated her proposal, instead asking for the opportunity to have prerecorded and acoustic music performances, which would be kept to a strict limit.

"I want to be a very good neighbor," Kaplan said. "It's mostly Friday and Saturday that there will be music."

Kaplan asked permission to have prerecorded music, defined as music from a CD, MP3 player or vinyl record to be maintained at a level that meets the City's noise ordinance, outside between the hours of 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and inside daily from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Kaplan also asked for permission to have live acoustic music indoors from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. She also sought to have live acoustic music in the outdoor patio once a week Monday through Thursday between 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and four times a month on Fridays and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Finally, she asked for the right to hold a monthly karaoke party. "I'm very happy you've amended your application in the way that you did," said commission member Michael George. "You absolutely seem like people who want to work with the community."

Dozens of community members rose to spoke, either in favor of or against the issue. Supporters said the town should support a young native daughter's quest to build a business in her hometown and bring some vibrancy to Sonoma's lackluster nightlife. Opponents said there are enough music venues in Sonoma and warned this permit will stay with the property long after Kaplan, and the next owner may not be as committed to working with the community.

"One of the attractions of Sonoma is that it is a place to have fun," said Earl Blue, who supported the project. "I think we all need to lighten up on each other."

The commission hesitated before moving forward with a vote, citing a need to further process the late change in Kaplan's application. Commission member Ray Gallian was vocal in his support of the measure, and eventually the commission posed a motion to grant a temporary permit for six months, which passed with seven ayes and one nay.

Kaplan is still in the process of renovating the restaurant, which will open in the next few months.

Reader Comments wrote on May 16, 2009 2:30 PM:
" Congrats for bringing in live music to a wonderful new venue. I am a strong supporter of independent music and look forward to its opening. To those who were against this type of entertainment, please take the time, when it opens, to stop by and check it out. Live acoustic music is completely in a world of its own and can be appreciated by all ages. Cheers! " wrote on May 16, 2009 5:12 PM:
" Liz took the words out of my mouth. Give Emmy's new place a chance. " wrote on May 16, 2009 6:53 PM:
" I love music and I love the idea. Hope it is a raging success! " wrote on May 21, 2009 11:01 AM:
" I love music and entertainment and think that Sonoma needs more of it. However, this is simply the wrong location and Ms. Kaplan's proposal was flawed and blatantly disregarded the concerns of people that live in the surrounding residential area.

Restaurant --yes. DJ's and live music outside late into the night as young kids and parents try sleep in their beds-- absolutely ridiculous.

The last minute submittal of a revised application was not ethical nor fair to allow the public adequate time to assess and raise the appropriate questions with the commission.

The commission simply did not do their job and showed no willingness to ask the difficult questions. Instead just did a favor to a local girl. It is a shame. " wrote on May 23, 2009 6:29 AM:
" Seems that any person or business still has to abide by the noise ordinance laws. Though, I may not have all the facts and an exception may have been made here for this business.

And if the noise becomes a nuisance, that can be addressed if or when it occurs rather than cutting off a potential profitable venue before it even gets a chance to succeed...or fail.

The economy is not a lifeboat and it would be nice if the folks who are established give others a chance to do the same without putting up so many barriers to the freedom of exchange. "

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Over the years my opinions have changed but this will never change: Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior, died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sin.