Music and noise from an outdoor bar at Palmetto Bay Marina has led to complaints from some Hilton Head Island residents.
The Black Marlin Hurricane Bar was cited July 5 for violating the town's noise ordinance.
The town received at least 15 complaints from condominium owners who live above the outdoor bar, according to town staff attorney Brian Hulbert.
A bar owner said the business is making an effort to quiet down, but some condo owners say they're still bothered by the noise.
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Sound from people just talking is unbearable, let alone when bands play on Tuesday nights, according to one couple.
"We turned down the bass and music levels, and speakers are turned off after 10 p.m. for the side of the building closest to the condos," said Tim Onorato, a partner in Black Marlin Bayside Grille, which operates the Hurricane Bar. "We have been making a conscious effort throughout the restaurant to limit noise since the (citation) was made, and have had no complaints in the last week and a half."
Black Marlin is part of the Southeast Entertainment Restaurant Group.
"When they have a band ... I can't hear my TV or my radio and I can't talk on my cellphone, even with all the doors and windows shut. It's like they're in my living room," said Kerri Mullis, who lives in a condo above the bar with her husband. "Every other night, I have to sleep with a noise machine at full volume on my night stand to (drown) out the voices from down below. I can hear whole conversations.
"It goes until 2 to 3 a.m. in the morning, and the more alcohol is served, the louder it gets."
Mullis said she would like to see the outdoor bar close at 10 or 11 p.m., and patrons moved inside to the daiquiri bar, with doors and windows closed to contain the noise.
Onorato said he believes the issue has been effectively addressed.
"All managers have applications on their smartphones measuring decibel levels to make sure the noise is at an acceptable level," he said. "Managers are more cognizant of sound level and trying to be cooperative neighbors."
Daytime noise from the bar -- between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. -- is not allowed to exceed 67 decibels, under a town ordinance. Nighttime noise is limited to 62 decibels.
Town records show noise from the bar exceeded allowed daytime levels July 5 by as much as 24 decibels. A 10-decibel change is perceived as a doubling or halving of volume.
Readings taken by a town code-enforcement officer between 7:38 and 8 p.m. when a band was playing were between 67 and 91 decibels. Sound levels dropped when the band was not playing but still exceeded acceptable levels in some areas, Hulbert said.Normal conversation is about 60 decibels. About 70 decibels is considered moderately loud, similar to a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer. Ninety decibels is equivalent to the sound of a lawn mower. Anything above 120 decibels is considered painful and may cause hearing loss.
The town has received some complaints since July 5, but no citations have been issued. Calls were made at night and not received until the following business day, so town staff was unable to check on a violation, Hulbert said.
He said he hopes the citation will encourage the outdoor bar to comply with the ordinance. If not, more citations may be issued, he said.
"We warned them several times, but it kept being a problem so we issued them a citation," Hulbert said. "The business needs to ask patrons to be mindful of the people around them and the residents. If there are ongoing complaints, we will continue to check and monitor to make sure they are complying."
A municipal court hearing will be set soon. The bar faces a fine of up to $1,092 if found guilty, Hulbert said.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.