New Berlin — A restaurant's outdoor concerts that once drew neighbors out of their homes and into the New Berlin City Hall to complain have apparently now hit the perfect note.
Because there were no complaints as a result of the second year of outdoor concerts at Quaker Steak & Lube in 2013, the Plan Commission last week approved a permit for 2014. The permit will be automatically renewed every year unless there are complaints filed with the city.
Quaker Steak & Lube, 4900 S. Moorland Road, inaugurated the outdoor concerts in 2012. When the restaurant proposed a second summer series of concerts, city officials got a mixed reaction from the public, with some neighbors objecting to what they considered to be unwelcome noise.
The concerts also had public support, even from other neighbors.
After considering the varied input, the Plan Commission approved the 2013 concert schedule of 48 concerts from May through mid-September, but warned the approval might not be repeated in 2014 if the city heard any related complaints.
To make sure, Quaker Steak & Lube owner Scott Acker turned the speakers away from the residences and toward Interstate 43, bought his own sound system rather than letting bands use theirs, and generally turned down the sound.
To help make sure those measures worked, a city staffer visited the residential area north of the restaurant three times to make sure there was no noise. Once was in April during a sound test and twice in May during actual concerts, according to the staff report. No problems were found.
Neighbors seem to agree.
"I personally only had one time this past summer they were too loud," said Carol Ann Bankar, of Scot Drive, who lives three blocks north of the restaurant and who had previously told city officials that she said she couldn't even use her patio during the 2012 concerts.
"Once in a summer I can tolerate, but not every two days, which it was the summer before," Bankar said.
Neighbor John Fillar, now alderman for the area, said 2013 was a far cry from 2012, when the live music emanating from the restaurant competed with the radio who likes to listen to outside.
"As far as music is concerned, we can't hear it anymore," said Fillar, whose home is two blocks from Quaker Steak. "The restaurant has lived up to its end of the deal. I'm quite happy about it."
Muffling other noise
While the loud music has been taken care of, Fillar said he has started to work on another noise problem tied to the concerts: loud motorcycles.
Though not directly within the restaurant's control, those bikes with loud exhaust systems have caused a disturbance during Bike Night concerts.
"The motorcycles, in my opinion, always were much worse than the music," he said.
What irks him is that such noise is hardly legal anywhere in Wisconsin.
"It is against the law to have a loud exhaust," Fillar said, noting that state law calls for mufflers to be maintained so that they prevent excessive or unusual noise. It's also against state law to alter mufflers so that they are louder than when they come out of the factory, he added.
The tricky part of enforcement is nailing down how loud is too loud and establishing whether a muffler has been illegaly modified, something that would involve police, Fillar said.
Regardless, the Plan Commission's action last week did not address motorcycle noise as it pertains to Quaker Steak's concerts.
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