Council Hears Of Waterfront Noise, Drunks & Parking Woes; Considers Stricter Rules

by | Mar 5, 2019

Above: Elisha Ellis, who lives on Long Street.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Town Council got several ears-ful Monday night as resident after resident took to the podium to complain about noise, illegally parked cars, and drunkenness leading to public urination and fights by the waterfront during the summer months.

The residents begged the council to act to eliminate what they described as excesses caused by restaurants on Water Street, mainly Blu on the Water and Finn’s Harborside, both of which feature outdoor live music several evenings a week during the summer months.

Councilwoman Renu Englehart and Council Vice President Mike Donegan took up the noise issue after hearing complaints while campaigning for office last fall.

“You’re talking to people and they’d say, ‘It’s terrible down here,’” Englehart said. While the council has plenty on its plate right now (the 2020 budget, hiring a fire chief, finance director and town manager, among other things), Englehart said they wanted to get the ball rolling on the noise ordinance before the summer season.

The draft ordinance before the council Monday night would decrease levels by five decibels in most categories but Town Solicitor Andy Teitz suggested overhauling the original ordinance, saying it was unnecessarily complicated (it has a total of nine decibel levels, according to the zone and time of day).

He noted that Warwick’s noise ordinance was more “minimalist,” with a maximum level of 60 decibels that drops to 50 decibels after 10 p.m. East Greenwich allows up to 70 decibels on the waterfront, dropping to 65 after 10 p.m.

Longtime King Street resident Joe Gelineau said things used to be better, but worsened in 2012, after Blu opened and the owners got rid of some noise-dampening curtains because they wanted to open things up for better views.

“For 15 years, we never heard the music in the house,” he said. “Now, we can’t escape it. There’s nowhere in my house I can’t go. We can’t take it anymore.”

The view from Castle Street, with Finn’s Harborside at the bottom of the street.

One resident, who lives in and owns a multi-family apartment house on Castle Street near from the Harborside, said the situation was hurting his family and his rental business.

“It’s the Wild West down there,” he said. “I’ve got young kids. They’re up until 1 in the morning with the windows shaking. I’ve lost tenants because of this. It’s an ongoing problem and it needs to stop.”

88 King Street with Blu on the Water in the background.

Pounding on the podium in rhythmic fashion to accent his words, Joe Gelineau said the real problem is the unrelenting pulse of the bass. Gelineau gave the councilors copies of police reports from two times when he called to complain. In both instances, the sound from Blu did not exceed the town’s decibel limit, and in both instances Gelineau invited the police into his house. As one of the officers wrote in a  report from Aug. 18, 2017, “I noted that the bass was in fact audible within despite that all the windows were closed tight.”

“The town is creating the environment. They’re allowing it,” said Elisha Ellis, who lives in the Long Street house he grew up in. The bands didn’t start up until the mid-1990s, he said. Before that, he said, he and his friends would sit by the water and listen to the sounds of the water lapping the shore.

“What it is now is hell, it’s something entirely different. It’s acoustic bombardment,” he said.

Residents also complained about the behavior of people pouring out of the waterfront bars at closing time.

David Agronick, who lives on Water Street, told the council people urinate and argue in his front yard. “I’ve seen people hit each other,” he said.

Police patrol the area but manpower is limited. The restaurants sometimes hire detail officers to help with traffic and crowds inside the various establishments. But, residents argued, the bad behavior often happens after closing time.

Residents also complained about speeding valet drivers and parking problems.

“Every weekend, it’s like a festival in your neighborhood,” agreed Police Chief Steven Brown. “It’s also traffic, people talking, this goes on all night long. So if you live there, it’s a very difficult situation.”

The Town Council discussed lowering the decibel levels to 60 or 50. After more than two hours of conversation and comment, they tabled the ordinance for revision.

No one from any of the Water Street establishments was in attendance. Acting Town Manager Joe Duarte said he had told the Chamber of Commerce about Monday’s meeting hoping the chamber would alert business owners.

Councilors said they hoped both business owners and residents would be part of the discussion going forward.

“I think we can do something to help them,” said Englehart after the meeting. “I don’t anticipate we’re going to please everybody.”


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32 Comments

  1. THOMAS DALBORA

    Without a doubt, the Town of East Greenwich has created this mess. Each morning when the bars are counting receipts, the local property owners get to clean up beer cans and other trash including used condoms.

    Reply
    • Jen

      That’s bull. None of them even serve cans for one. And for two, you’re not allowed to leave the bar with a beverage and that is strictly enforced. Exaggerating much???

      Reply
    • Dave

      What total and utter bollocks. There isn’t a single establishment along the waterfront that serves alcohol in a can. And I’m sure they’re passing out condoms as you go out the door so that they can throw them on your lawn. Please. Don’t make up stuff just to stir up people. Since it’s such a popular saying these days, FAKE NEWS!!!! Lol

      Reply
      • Mary

        No one is saying that the bars are responsible for the condoms or beer cans. Patrons bring beers to “pre-game” and litter them out their window before walking down to the bar. Residents within about a block spend every Thursday-Monday morning picking up after the night before.

        Read the facts on what is actually being discussed here…everyone agrees that live music at the waterfront is an asset to the community and no one wants to get rid of that! Everyone is in agreement that the live music scene is valuable.

        The proposal is to make the noise levels the exact same as what is allowed on Main Street EG and at Chelo’s down the street.

        There is certainly a way businesses and residents can work together to resolve these issues.

        Jumping to conclusions about what is actually being proposed just incites drama and misinformation. To be clear, no one has proposed getting rid of live music or limiting it in any way that would be any different from neighboring EG establishments as well as those in Newport, Providence, etc.

        Reply
    • Bill

      You’re not telling the truth , they don’t serve beer cans within the restaurants. In addition your complaint about used condoms ,”really” you’re down there examining them lol 😂.
      I’m sorry , but people always over exaggerate the problem !!!
      You moved there knowing about the summer time events at these establishments.
      Try working with them and not against them and find common ground.
      This could get ugly , lawyers , fines, restrictions , there’s no need for that.

      Reply
  2. Eric

    Weird argument. They shouldn’t have bought property in a commercial, waterfront restaurant area. Even decades ago. I own rental property in the same area and this is not an issue at all. The noise on a few summer weekends and environment is expected and actually livens up the Town. The businesses there are excellent and a great opportunity for the city.

    Reply
  3. KarenLu LaPolice

    Blu on the Water is right next to the EG Historic Preservation Society’s building. The workers at Blu had left trash on the EGHPS property along with cigarette butts, plastic lighters and cups, because they would go out on break and sit on the fire escape that is on the EGHPS building. The manager was notified and had someone clean it up but it still occurs on occasion. Someone who worked there a couple of years ago had a very nice Golden Retriever but the dog would poop all over the EGHPS property. Signage had to be placed on the fence to discourage such activity. These are minor issues but it would be interesting to see the police reports on how many times they have had to respond to each waterfront business and the reason for each call.

    Reply
  4. Mark Thompson

    Thanks for the photos!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth McNamara

      You are welcome!

      Reply
  5. Marcela William

    It’s great to see our little town booming with business, it’s one reason why so many people want to come here. I remember when Joe Gelineau himself ran a restaurant out of 88 King Street back in the day. It does sound a bit like sour grapes.

    Reply
  6. Marcela William

    Another comment is that Scott Hubbard on Castle St. (the house pictured above Near Finn’s) says he’s lost tenants due to noise? They’ve been remodeling for years and have only recently (in the last six months) put the three units on the market for rent. One was posted in August for $3000, the little cottage next door for $2600 and finally the downstairs unit for $1800. Certainly, the Hubbards wouldn’t be able to command nearly $7500 in monthly rental income were it not for our vibrant waterfront community. And when they purchased in 2012, surely they researched the area: who buys a house near a bar when you have kids?

    Reply
    • Leslie

      Yes… The tenants in the triple deckers are complaining and want it Shut down!

      The landlord can’t get his $3000 a month per unit rent!!

      But then again, maybe he shouldn’t have bought next to a place that’s known to have done noise for 8 to 10 weeks a year. I think they should completely re-route Amtrak and the flight path away from his house as well (being sarcastic obviously)

      Reply
  7. Alan Clarke

    This could be a moot subject were it not for the fact that the ability to have a band play at a restaurant was denied the operators of the restaurant that occupied(s) a space on the old East Greenwich Golf Club on Division Road when there wasn’t a house in sight, let alone close enough to have a sound waft through the fields to get there. I, and others, protested the double-standard nature of the rulings to the Isaacs-era Town Council. Sound-measuring instruments went out to test the site and all but a simple wedding march of a Summer Saturday afternoon was obviously too much for the distant neighbors to tolerate. It causes one to ask who was served by the previous town councils? Bear in mind that this new town council is made up entirely of members living west of the South County Trail, Route 2, save one who is only a few feet east of Route 2. Three members live almost to West Greenwich. One can be certain that they do not hear the bands and motorcycles.

    Reply
    • Eric

      The argument and logic is, why in the world would someone buy property in a restaurant business area and then not expect the noise and activity that comes with it? If you don’t want added noise, buy property like east of route 2. Its kind of like saying, I’m going to the beach– however, I’m very offended that people are wearing shorts. I want a law that everyone should wear pants and a sweatshirt in public. You would probably say that that person has some bad judgement and issues : )

      Reply
      • Alan Clarke

        The (Quiet) Hill and (Noisy) Harbour part of the town really needs to have a representative of its own on the Council. The town should be divided into five districts with a rep from each one on the council. I’ve brought this up before and here it is again. How good can the representation on such matters be when everyone on the Council lives way out in the boonies?

        Reply
  8. Li

    This is similar as to when I lived near the airport for years , if you know where you’re buying you can’t really complain about noice conditions and how it’s been for decades ! Those club and restaurants have been there for 30 years and playing music or just as long . Yes it would be nice if the police would patrol during closing hours to distribute the crowds anymore or fashion .

    Reply
  9. Ali

    It’s amazing how the businesses in question were conveniently uninformed about this meeting…..

    Reply
  10. Jacqueline

    Live music only since the 90s? How odd since I frequented 20 Water St (now Blu) and Harborside most summer weekends in the 80s and live music was being played then.

    Reply
  11. Liz

    Parking is a severe issue. I live on Duke Street and in the summer and on weekends when the waterfront is rocking these establishments have their employees park on our streets making it impossible for residents to find parking near their homes. Also this encourages loud messy foot traffic after hours for those too cheap to use valet service for parking. I too have witnessed fights and public urination on our property. Speeding vehicles are a problem on our congested streets. I also believe there is another severe safety issue at hand. With the congestion of cars I have witnessed on Water Street emergency rescue and fire vehicles have been blocked getting past establishments like Blu to get to other businesses, the fire and rescue boat and to other emergencies on the waterfront. We need to work on a comprehensive plan that takes into consideration all the issues at hand. Decibel levels alone will not change anything. I would also like to suggest residential permit parking only in certain areas. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I live closer to Finns Harborside than anyone. I have never seen rescue vehicles have any problem getting down here!!

      Reply
      • Liz

        I was specific in my statement, emergency vehicles are often blocked getting down Water Street past Blu to get to the city Fireboat, McKinley’s, Prime, GBSA, the businesses in the mill building and the yacht club. I cannot say I have witnessed difficulty getting to Finns either. Thanks for the clarification.

        Reply
  12. Luis

    The only reason that the town is trying to change the noise ordinance, is because three of the high ranking members of the E.G.P.D. have a personal vendetta against the waterfront establishments. I know first hand because I use to work there for the past two years.

    REASON:
    Last year during an altercation a police office broke his wrist trying to arrest two subjects. I was in charge of the security team. Once I noticed that friends of the subject were trying to attack the officers on the seen, I ordered my team to form a circle around the officers to protect them. That’s when the harassment began, with tickets and verbal harassment ordered by the three high ranking member of the E.G.P.D.! My team, the restaurant and myself Never got a thank you from these high ranking members officers. NOTHING AT ALL!

    Reply
  13. Lisa Gallucci

    I rent a house on Queen Street right across from Finns Harborside. Most of the reason for choosing this location was the marina and the outdoor summer entertainment! It is basically a ghost town down here in the winter, so I can’t wait until summer and for the bands to start playing! We don’t have children. If we did, we probably would not have chosen to live right here. People should already know exactly what to expect if they CHOOSE to live near the waterfront!

    Reply
  14. Keith

    Police:We had complaints about the music. Musician:We are sorry that we were so loud:Police:We didn’t get complaints about the sound level. We got complaints because you guys suck.

    Reply
  15. Amy Gates

    Sounds to me what they are doing is what NK did many years ago. It used to be hopping town and down by the marinas. Noise complaints. Now streets roll up at 5pm. Wickford is pretty much dead which is why EG has become such a great town to come to. Its become a happening little town. I love EG! Jobs and tax dollars does amazing thing, meanwhile,NK is waffling to nothingville.

    Reply
  16. nautica B28

    I understand both sides of this issue, as a frequent guest these establishments.
    The area offers great entertainment, fun for people, and good for the town and state.

    People who live there and/or impacted negatively must be listened to.

    An adjustment in noise levels, restriction in entertainment times, signs to enforce parking and trash rules, and enforcement of these rules may be benefit both sides.

    Reply
  17. Joe

    Why doesn’t this seem to be a problem on Main St? We don’t hear about people coming out of the bars and restaurants peeing on buildings up there…

    Reply
  18. Nicole

    I purposely moved from the suburban area of North Kingstown and moved to Main Street East Greenwich for the small town city feeling of a dozen restaurants, entertainment and shops all within walking distance. I too can hear noise from Main Street but I pay to hear city sounds and be able to invite family and friends from other towns & states to join me for EG summer time fun! We look forward to fun and musical summer nights! Why attract businesses that bring people near and far to our area. There are solutions on both sides. I would highly recommend not taking away what makes east Greenwich great! If you are solely disturbed and unhappy move away from the commercial and Main Street vibes!!!

    Reply
  19. Randie

    I have a unique perspective as I designed the sound system for Blu On the Water. Ownership’s main concern was to NOT disturb their neighbors. We used 10 inch speakers for subs as they have the least amount of long distance throw. We installed a compressor/ limiter (controls volume) and insisted EVERY band use the house sound. Every night a manager walks around with a DB meter to make sure the volume is contained. I have been involved with night clubs for 40 years and have NEVER worked for a management more concerned about their neighbors and the community.

    Reply
  20. Lisa

    Whiners and complainers make everyone’s life miserable!! Lol

    Reply
  21. Rebecca

    I realise that the ” out of towners ,” think they know what they are talking about . But trust me ; You don’t !! I remember Finns when the music was played INSIDE ! Why ? Because where the outside venue is NOW ? WAS A BOAT DOCK !!! And there have been constant problems with noise , brutal rapes , fights , people having drunken sex in the parking lots , yelling and screaming ,motorcycles reving and racing and yes ! Beer cans and bottles everywhere . The side streets 2 or 3 blocks away ? Are congested with out of town people parking Every place because they are going to main street or the water front . And YES RESCUES CAN NOT GET THROUGH ! Swap places with your neighbors on the water front for a month ….. you’ll change your minds quick enough .

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I seriously live about 20 steps away from Finns. I can see and hear everything that goes on over there! I have NEVER seen rescue vehicles not be able to get through! And brutal rapes????!!!! Where do people come up with this BS!! Also, where is the fun in being cooped up INSIDE all summer when you can be enjoying music outdoors on the beautiful waterfront! We’re cooped up long enough all winter! I wouldn’t live anywhere else! I feel lucky to live this close to the fun and excitement the waterfront brings!! I didn’t move to EG to take up knitting! YAWN!!!!

      Reply

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