Downtown bars and restaurants will not be allowed to play music past regular hours during the Water Festival following a decision Tuesday night by Beaufort City Council.
Council voted unanimously to deny a noise ordinance waiver requested by Paul Thompson of Panini's on the Waterfront for the 10-day festival July 18 to 27.
Mayor Billy Keyserling offered a simple "sorry," to business owners, residents and Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Blakely Williams, who spoke in support of the waiver.
"When it comes to public safety, I'm not sure I can vote against the chief," Keyserling said, noting that police Chief Matt Clancy opposed the waiver.
Deputy Chief Dale McDorman wrote memo saying the police department is against the waiver because it is not for a specific special event. McDorman also wrote that the Water Festival already has a noise ordinance waiver.
The memo also said police are already stretched thin by Water Festival activities.
"Great event, lot of fun, but it is a bit of a stretch for city staff," city manager Scott Dadson said.
Councilman George O'Kelley Jr., a former municipal court judge, said he's seen first hand the increase in problems and incidents handled by police during the festival.
"This adds another layer to it and I'm not going to vote for it," he said.
Water Festival entertainment ends 11 p.m.
According to his letter to the city, Thompson wanted the ordinance waived until 2 a.m. every day except Sunday.
The noise ordinance restricts loud music or noise between 1 and 7 a.m. seven days a week, and between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.
Williams said the chamber wanted the waiver approved, adding that restaurants might be forced to compete with the festival because of the restriction on hours.
Thompson, along with Hemingway's Bistro owner Andina Foster and Q on the Bay owner Jason Bailey, argued that the Water Festival brings in a significant amount of revenue for their businesses, especially at night.
Bailey said the noise ordinance has been largely ignored in the past. Dadson said that wasn't the case. Disagreement over the ordinance to a head this spring when police began receiving increased complaints, mainly from John North who renovated an apartment in a building he owns downtown.
Resident Eric Thibault, who owns Thibault Gallery , said he's concerned what strict enforcement of the ordinance could mean for the festival's atmosphere. People come specifically for the festival, and enjoy other activities after, he said.
"I don't want to see something happen to the Water Festival, which everybody loves," he said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.