Cambridge to consider amending noise ordinance relating to downtown events

Businesses in the Cambridge downtown business district with a valid liquor license issued by the city may soon be able to hold outdoor events lasting until 11 p.m.

During the April 17 Cambridge City Council meeting, Sean Okerlund, owner of the Cambridge Bar and Grill, asked council members if they would consider amending the city’s nuisance ordinance to allow for downtown outdoor events to last until 11 p.m. The current ordinance only allows outdoor events to last until 10 p.m.

Okerlund explained during last year’s inaugural block party held July 29, most people showed up around 8:30 p.m. And with a 10 p.m. end time, it only allowed his business 90 minutes to recoup the expenses that go along with putting on an outdoor event such as hiring the band, renting a stage, tables, chairs and tents and hiring private security.

Following a discussion, by consensus, the council appeared to be moving ahead with amending the nuisance ordinance. Formal action is expected on the amendment during the council’s May 1 meeting.

The following is a draft of the amendment: “A property owner in the B-1 Downtown Business District that holds a valid liquor license issued by the city of Cambridge may request as part of the street closure process to hold a single-day event in the B-1 Downtown Business District that would generate noise until 11 p.m. The council may allow up to six such events per year with a maximum of two events per licensed establishment.”

Cambridge City Administrator Lynda Woulfe explained the Cambridge Bar and Grill, Sideline’s, Pizza Pub and Chapala Mexican Grill are currently the only businesses in the downtown business district with a valid liquor license issued by the city.

Woulfe explained all street closure requests need City Council approval, so if a business holds an outdoor event and it doesn’t go well, the council has discretion the next time the business makes another street closure request to hold an outdoor event.

Okerlund explained he heard many positive comments following his outdoor event last year, and the event did not generate any police reports or activity. He said his business is planning another block party event again this summer in conjunction with the Cambridge Bar and Grill’s 30th anniversary.

Mayor Marlys Palmer said moving the ending time to 11 p.m. for an outdoor event is really a step forward for the city.

“While you do want to make all people happy all at the same time, we have learned that it is not always possible,” Palmer said. “These are great get-togethers and I’d like to be known as a community doing all we can to offer good, safe entertainment for all people.”

The council also realized it has to be sensitive to the residents who live near the downtown business district, but also noted the city is currently trying to revitalize its downtown and bring more people and activity to the downtown area.

Palmer noted the council can always revisit the ordinance again next year depending on how events go the rest of this year.

In other action, the council:
• Approved the preliminary and final plat for Cortec. Miksic Realty is the owner of Cortec, and it has plans to expand its warehouse with an addition to the building on the north end of its property. Due to the complexity of its existing property lines, it requested to plat its property. Platting the property will combine its existing four parcels into one lot and block. The plat contains 4.2 acres.

• Authorized a one-year subscription to Balancing Act for Taxpayer Receipt and Balancing Act PRO Budget Simulation, directed staff to implement for the upcoming 2018 budget preparation cycle and allow for up to four hours of staff time for customization. With this software, a resident will be able to put in the market value of their home and the Taxpayer Receipt will generate the breakdown of what their local tax dollars are paying for. This would only be available to property owners with a physical address in the city of Cambridge.