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Bemidji City Council to discuss outdoor music, nonprofit contributions

BEMIDJI – The Bemidji City Council will meet in a work session tonight to discuss outdoor music and its guidelines for contributions to nonprofits.

The outdoor music issue stems from the Blue Ox Bar and Grill’s owner, who hopes to see the city’s noise enforcement applied more fairly.  

Bar owner Michelle Soltis, said Monday that she asked for a work session after she received many noise ordinance tickets this summer due to complaints of loud music on the bar patio.

 Soltis said it was their third season of outdoor live music, but it only became a problem this year, when they had a few more outdoor shows. Soltis said they adjusted by starting music earlier in some cases and occasionally moving it indoors.

She said the situation is hurting her ability to run the business.

“It’s a big deal to us here,” Soltis said.

Soltis said she even drove around town this summer with police officers and a decibel meter to measure how loud the music was.  Some of the complaints were coming from almost 20 blocks away, Soltis said, where they had to turn off their cars because the vehicles were louder than the music.

Soltis said the noise ordinance is currently too subjective.

“Sound at night is not necessarily illegal,” she said. “And at what level is it obtrusive? That’s the subjective part that I think needs to read differently. It needs to be set at a measurable level.”

Bemidji’s ordinance doesn’t include any provision for measuring decibel levels.

 “Some cities have a nuisance ordinance that actually has a decibel rating,” city manager John Chattin said. “We don’t.”

The council will also discuss the process for considering grant applications to nonprofits through its liquor store fund.

The council voted in June 2011 to set aside 5 percent of liquor store funds from then until Jan. 1, 2013 to give to nonprofits through an application process.

Chattin said with the high number of nonprofits in Bemidji, it’s important to set guidelines and be in accordance with state statute.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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