Town says Hilton Head club has improved on noise complaints; neighbors disagree

astice@islandpacket.comApril 10, 2013 

Simmons Fishing Camp, a bar at 11 Simmons Road on Hilton Head Island.


Palmer Simmons, owner of Simmons Fishing Camp, said he is trying his best to be a good neighbor.

After the Town of Hilton Head Island told the club last year that excessive complaints could force him to close, Simmons said he has spent time and money improving the nightclub.

He has insulated the building on 11 Simmons Road to keep the noise inside and turned the music down. He has put up signs, lights and security cameras. Employees are now stationed outside the nightspot to tell customers driving up to turn down the music in their cars as they approach, he said.

Last year, the town determined Simmons Fishing Camp could be declared a public nuisance because of the volume of complaints and lose its business license if it didn't shape up. The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office tells the town about any calls it receives about the business.

The improvements "appeared to be working pretty well," town staff attorney Brian Hulbert said.

At least until recently.

After a quiet winter, complaints about noise from the business have picked up in March and April, according to Beaufort County Sheriff's Office data.

Two women who live on nearby Gibson Road told deputies last weekend they have had enough. According to an April 7 Sheriff's Office report, the women decided to press charges for disturbing the peace. The deputy issued the club manager a citation with a Hilton Head Island Municipal Court date later this month, according to the report.

Attempts to reach the complainants for comment were unsuccessful. Previously, the club had received no citations for noise or alcohol violations, officials have said.

Additionally, Sara Remigio of Morgan Court, whose home is less than one-tenth of a mile from the nightspot, said that last Tuesday, she heard several gunshots. The next morning, she filed a report, although it noted no shell casings were found.

Many of the recent disturbance calls have not been substantiated, Hulbert said. Reports show that when deputies arrive, they determine noise can only be heard when the club's door opens to let people in and out, or is coming from cars driving down the road.

"We have a young crowd that likes to come out and have a drink and party and listen to their kind of music," Simmons said. "We're not the big bad wolf, by any means."

Simmons acknowledged there were some "growing pains" when the business began catering to a younger set about three years ago. Since then, he said, he has made every effort to comply with town guidance.

Concern grew in November, however, after a man was arrested for discharging a firearm within town limits. The Sheriff's Office said he shot himself in the leg outside of the club. Shell casings and two vehicles damaged by gunfire were found near the club, but no other shooters were confirmed, the Sheriff's Office has said.

With two children under age 3, Remigio worries about a stray bullet striking her home.

"Is it going to take a child getting killed to do something about this?" she said.

Remigio said she wants to compile Sheriff's Office reports of gunfire near the club from previous years to encourage neighbors to lobby against the club.

Questions emailed Monday to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh had not been returned by Wednesday afternoon.

Reached late Wednesday, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said he was not prepared to comment about the business without reviewing calls at the location. He noted that island-wide, the Sheriff's Office receives more calls for service in the spring.

Hulbert said the recent complaints will prompt another conversation between the town and the club's owner.

Simmons, citing Simmons Fishing Camp's history stretching back decades, said he welcomes the chance to work with officials and law enforcement to make everyone safe.

The nightclub, he said, "isn't going anywhere."

Related content

  1. Town tells island club to shape up or risk being shut down, July 28, 2012
  2. New details emerge in Simmons Fish Camp shooting on Hilton Head, Nov. 13, 2012

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