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Hernando County reviewing noise at Clem's nightclub

The commission is taking another look at Planet Bubba because of complaints from neighbors.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2000


SPRING HILL -- If it's not the noise, it's the vibrations from Planet Bubba that have some of the club's neighbors shaken.

"I don't hear the music, but that boom boom I hear constantly," said Jeanette Sprague, who lives about five houses away from the club.

She referred to her diary of calls to the Sheriff's Office about the problem. On Saturday, Sprague said, she called at 1:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. before giving up. "I wound up with basically no sleep. I cat-napped in my chair for just an hour."

Continued complaints have brought the year-old nightclub and restaurant back before the Hernando County Commission, where members want to further restrict the county noise ordinance to deal with booming bass.

"The goal here should be finding a way for the business and community to coexist," said Commissioner Nancy Robinson, who said she has received numerous calls lately about the club.

If Planet Bubba won't do its part, Robinson and other commissioners said, the county needs to force the issue. Deputy County Administrator Dick Radacky said he will talk to sound experts and confer with other counties in search of the ideal noise control rules.

"I've been told the bass energy level is enough to rattle glass (inside homes) a block away," Radacky said of Planet Bubba, which stays open until 2 a.m.

Don't blame the club, protested general manager Deborah Kane.

"It's when the kids pull in the parking lot and have those blaring stereos on," she explained. "We're trying to do everything we can."

Just last week, Kane said, she and club co-owner Richard Fabrizi met with county officials to discuss the problem. Over the weekend Fabrizi grabbed a microphone to tell the crowd to keep the car stereos quiet. But there's really nothing the club can do about that besides ask, Kane said.

Neither can the county.

As it stands, the noise ordinance bans people from playing car radios on private property loud enough to be heard 100 feet or more from the car. But the rule does not apply to vehicles on a street or highway.

And as for the music inside the club, Kane said, the county tested the volume after complaints about a year ago and found it well within the 60 decibel level allowed by the same ordinance. In the words of a code enforcement officer's report, "case closed."

"We haven't changed anything," Kane said. "If anything, we've turned it down."

Bill Cushman, general manager of the nearby Denny's, said his staff had seen and heard little recently from the club. Some clubbers would come to the restaurant for breakfast and toss food or get rowdy, he said, but the bigger problems come from patrons of the strip bars to the south who are on their way home.

"It's just fun on Friday and Saturday night. ... The kids around here are pretty decent people," said Cushman, who added that he has told his night manager to "lighten up."

Planet Bubba, 7255 Forest Oaks Blvd., has fielded criticism from the community and the commission before. Shortly after it opened, several neighbors called the Sheriff's Office and signed petitions to get the club to turn down the volume.

Co-owner Bubba the Love Sponge Clem defended his club before the commission and accused commissioners of conducting a "witch hunt" against him and his club. Clem had similar troubles in the mid-90s before he closed Sponges and vowed never to return to Hernando County.

Kane said rumors that the county is gunning for any Bubba-related activity remain. County officials deny it, saying only that the noise is the culprit and it must be toned down.

Fabrizi declined to comment, saying the matter is in lawyers' hands.

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