Use of amplified music will be restricted |

Use of amplified music will be restricted

Susan Wood
The beach at Zephyr Cove Resort is a popular summertime gathering spot. Restrictions have been placed on the resort's Sunset Bar after neighbors complained about unruly activity.

STATELINE – Douglas County officials sent a loud-and-clear message on Thursday to the operators of Zephyr Cove Resort: the ear-splitting, disruptive noise from the Sunset Bar will not be tolerated anymore.

The amplified music and stage will no longer be allowed – unless a wedding is involved.

The commissioners, acting as the Liquor Board, responded to at least 15 complaints in the summer from neighbors and sheer irritation from Sheriff Ron Pierini by slapping restrictions on Aramark Corporation’s cabaret license. He said the company has “failed miserably” at handling the bad behavior that allegedly went way beyond cranking up the volume.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Gary Richert, who led the charge for the homeowners seeking revocation. Richert told the board he “can hear every lyric and every note” from the bar.

One neighbor claimed Zephyr Heights residents can hear the music, while others said the people nearby are forced to close their windows and doors in hot summer months to sometimes have a conversation.

Richert added seeing a “woman disrobing” and someone smoking illegal substances – positioning the bar as a party place where lewd conduct might occur.

“It’s gotten to the point where I refuse to take my 8-year-old granddaughter on the beach in the summer at Zephyr Cove Resort,” he said.

But testimony from bar supporters disputed the characterizations.

The liquor license was not in jeopardy during the three hours of testimony and deliberation. But the license that oversees the entertainment at the beach bar came close to being revoked on a 4-2 vote, with Pierini and Commissioner David Brady wanting no second chance for the concessionaire.

“This has been going on for a number of years. It is not our responsibility to baby-sit Aramark. The time for compromise has come and gone,” Brady said, blaming the problem on “lack of supervision.”

But commissioners Doug Johnson – once a drummer, Tim Smith, James Baushke and Kelly Kite leaned toward limits that weren’t so harsh for the company’s first-time appearance on the matter.

Under the direction of South Shore attorney Lew Feldman, Aramark stacked as many witnesses in favor of the bar keeping its entertainment license.

“This decision is not easy. Items like this are emotional, but I think there may be a solution short of irrevocation. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” said Smith, representing Tahoe’s District 4 in the county.

And Smith was the nicest about it. Baushke called the situation disturbing and childish, while pledging to take only five minutes on the matter if noise issues come before the board again.

He implied the license would be yanked – an action that Aramark’s District Manager Thomas McAleer said would take $1.2 million of business from the company.

“The license is an important part of our operation,” McAleer said.

Kite was even frustrated with McAvoy Layne taking the podium as Mark Twain, the character he has portrayed for years.

“No, no you’re not,” Kite said, snapping at the actor hired by Aramark for the paddlewheeler excursions because he felt Layne was “wasting their time.”

Feldman brought in acoustical engineer Jim Brennan of Auburn to suggest how to shield the neighbors from the noise and received some scrutiny on decibel levels from Kite. Feldman also lined up a bartender, band member and tourism officials like Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Patrick Kaler to make the case for giving young people a place to unwind.

In other tourism-related business, the commissioners approved a resolution on a 4-1 vote to dedicate 2 percent of the county’s motel room tax to South Lake Tahoe’s proposed convention center project if the Nevada Legislature allows the money to cross state lines. Kite voted no because he said “he can’t support anything relative to condemnation.”

Both states have measures on the November ballots that address eminent domain issues.

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