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New Berlin considers again allowing outdoor concerts at Quaker Steak and Lube

Feb. 8, 2013

New Berlin - Sorting through a chorus of public comments, city officials are considering whether to allow 48 outdoor concerts this summer at the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant.

This week, the Planning Commission acted as a sounding board for people who had something to say, both for and against, about the prospect of a second consecutive year of music at the automotive-themed eatery at 4900 S. Moorland Road. Quaker Steak wants the concerts to accompany its Wednesday Bike Night and its Thursday Car Cruise every week from May through mid-September.

Neighbors are mostly against the idea, saying last summer's concerts, which also included music on Friday nights, there were too numerous and too loud.

Those speaking in favor of the concerts, which accompany car and motorcycle shows, said the events are an entertainment asset and are no louder than other events in the city.

Quaker Steak had city staff approval to hold the concerts last year, but because there were complaints the Plan Commission now must decide whether to give conditional-use permit approval for them. The Plan Commission will consider the matter March 4.

Measuring sound

To ensure a reasonable amount of tranquility, some neighbors want the city, before granting permission for the concerts, to set a decibel level that could not be exceeded.

Quaker Steak owner Scott Acker supports the idea of a decibel limit, saying he helped the Middleton Quaker Steak and Lube work with neighbors, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the city to come up with an acceptable sound limit.

"If there's a rule to follow, that's good for both sides," Acker said.

In fact, the city is examining just that, even exploring how other communities approach the problem, said Jessica Titel, New Berlin associate planner.

Whether a Quaker Steak's conditional-use permit for the concerts will be delayed until that issue is settled is up to the Plan Commission.

Sound emanations

Because of last year's complaints, Acker said he will buy a sound system for the bands to use instead of their own. The speakers will be pointed at the freeway and away from homes.

He acknowledged that occasionally the wind could still blow the sound toward homes, adding that he would also try to control the volume.

But some neighbors don't want a repeat of last summer.

"It's awful," said John Fillar, who lives on Armour Avenue nearby.

Fillar said he likes to listen to the radio outside, but last summer his radio had to compete with the live music emanating from the restaurant.

Similarly, Carol Ann Bankar of Scot Drive, three blocks north of the restaurant, said she couldn't even use her patio.

But James Gradel of Pheasant Run Drive questioned how loud the music could be so far away.

"I go there with friends," he said, noting that they sit at tables in front of the bands and are able to talk to each other.

No matter how soft the music is when it reaches homes, it will still be a distraction for two evenings a week all summer, one Mayflower Drive resident said.

Drawing power

Vivian Jorgensen, who said she isn't bothered by the twice-a-week concerts that she can hear at her Deerwood Drive residence, noted that Quaker Steak provides jobs and the concerts showcase the city by drawing nonresidents.

"You can't satisfy everyone," she said.

Mel Laycock of Quimby Avenue, about three blocks from the restaurant, was among those who said he appreciates the available entertainment nearby.

"It's somewhere for us to go and have fun with friends," Laycock said.

Gregg Kluck of Muskego said the events help surrounding businesses and help the car cruise nights that used to be held in Greenfield.

"It's been an awesome thing to have Quaker Steak," he said.

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