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Noise ordinance hearing planned

Officials say the proposal is not a plan to put Planet Bubba and its owner out of business.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County took steps Tuesday to silence clubs and bars where noise has disturbed nearby residents.

Its ordinance, set for a public hearing May 9, would penalize businesses that serve alcohol and allow inside sound to be "plainly audible" in residential areas. The proposal came one week after about a dozen Spring Hill residents complained about thumping bass from Planet Bubba, a nightclub on Commercial Way.

Officials denied the rule is designed to put the club out of business. They noted that the guidelines would apply to all businesses that are licensed to serve alcohol and that disturb neighbors.

"But I would have to say his establishment would fall under this ordinance," County Administrator Paul McIntosh said about club owner Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. "Also, I'd say if he's concerned with being a good neighbor and businessman in Hernando County, he'd have no problem complying with this ordinance."

Clem had closed his restaurant Tuesday to add more speakers and space inside the club.

Commission Chairman Paul Sullivan said such a move might prove to be for naught if the proposal has the teeth it appears to have.

Based in part on an Orange County rule, Hernando's proposal would set a series of fines and sentences. It would strictly define "sound" and "plainly audible" and essentially say that if neighbors can hear or feel the music, it's too loud.

Between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., the fine would be $100. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., it would rise to $500. And between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. -- the times when Planet Bubba neighbors complained of the worst disruptions -- the penalty would include a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.

Specific decibel levels or other measures are not mentioned. Recent court cases have made those items less necessary if a government can show the negative secondary effects of an activity, Assistant County Attorney Kent Weissinger said.

Also, he said, the courts have granted local governments tremendous leeway in regulating businesses serving alcohol.

"We think this is as narrowly tailored an ordinance as possible," he said.

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