Sag Harbor Village came alive in a crescendo of live music last year, from reggae nights at Phao Thai Kitchen to guitarist and harmonica player Jim Turner’s open-jams at Blue Sky, making the village a destination for those hoping to groove to tunes after dinner, and giving local business owners a much-needed boost in sales.
But despite the steel drum players found at Main Street’s La Maison, hosting live music in Sag Harbor was in fact illegal.
Until last week.
After months of fine-tuning, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, working in concert with a group of restaurateurs, music event promoters, Main Street residents and the village police, passed a music permit law during its October 12 meeting.
Under the new law, restaurants and bars can legally obtain a music entertainment permit through the Village of Sag Harbor to host live music from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., as long as they adhere to village noise ordinances.
For special events, such as New Year’s Eve celebrations and the Fourth of July, business owners will be allowed three special events permits a year to allow live music until 3 a.m.
Under the legislation, background music, including the use of a jukebox, stereo system, or three-person, non-amplified band is allowed as of right and without a permit.
Cabarets, discos and nightclubs are prohibited from obtaining the permit.
The law allows code enforcement or police to suspend any permit at the time they witness a violation of the law, with a formal hearing held later to determine whether the suspension stands.
After a suspension of a permit, for noise ordinance issues, the village board does reserve the right to require soundproofing or other noise concerns before allowing the permit to be re-instated.
Businesses found in violation of the law, if convicted, are subject to a fine of no less than $1,000, no more than $5,000, or by imprisonment not to exceed 15 days.
According to Sag Harbor Village Trustee Robby Stein, who spearheaded the move towards legalizing music in Sag Harbor along with former trustee Tiffany Scarlato, the board has yet to set a permit price, but aims to keep it “reasonable,” likely between $25 and $100 annually.
Stein worked with Phao Thai Kitchen and Sen Japanese Restaurant co-owner Tora Matsouka, Bay Burger co-owner and Sag Harbor resident John Landes, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, as well as Main Street, Sag Harbor residents Hailey Schmitz and Joel Fisher in crafting the law, to ensure stakeholders had a hand in drafting the law.
“We, as trustees at the time — Tiffany and I — were without any question much more liberal in what we wanted to offer than even the musicians and restaurant owners,” said Stein on Tuesday.
Beppe Desiderio, proprietor of Blue Sky, said he wishes the legislation allowed live music until 3 a.m., noting the New York State Liquor Authority allows his establishment to serve drinks until 4 a.m.
“Why curb the enthusiasm when it’s just in good fun as long as it does not affect anyone outside the premises,” he asked.
“Having said that, it is in effect and moving forward, and I have been told we will try this out and we can always fix it,” said Desiderio. “I am hoping everyone will adhere to the new law.”
According to Stein, Matsouka read the draft law prior to its adoption and was satisfied. He added more than restrictions, the legislation was aimed at allowing live entertainment in Sag Harbor, but within confines that would prevent the ruckus residents had to contend with at Rocco’s on West Water Street before the parcel was converted into luxury condominiums.
“The other part of this is there are 100 people living on Main Street and do they want people pouring into the streets at 3 a.m. every night,” said Stein. “Speaking to residents, often it was not the music that was the problem, it was people streaming into the street and into their cars. It is not the bands that cause the noise, it was the people standing outside.”