Outdoor dining has become more popular since the COVID-19 pandemic, and some local restaurants have started to offer live or recorded music outdoors to attract and entertain diners.
But with music often comes complaints. Now, just a month after two residents complained at a recent village board meeting about loud music coming from Mary’s Morning Mix-Up, a restaurant at 9110 Broadway Ave. in Brookfield, the village of Brookfield has purchased a noise meter and is considering adopting a decibel-specific noise ordinance to keep a lid on complaints.
In June, Mary’s Morning Mix-Up obtained a liquor license and began an outdoor music series on its new patio from Wednesday through Sunday nights. The frequency of those offerings has since curtailed in response to some complaints.
“Although it is something that has been enjoyed, largely, by its patrons, this increased form of entertainment has brought, for some, an unwelcome disruption, especially to the nearby residents,” Brookfield Police Chief Mark Kuruvilla told the Brookfield Village Board at its July 25 committee of the whole meeting.
On Aug. 5, a Brookfield police officer with a new monitor the village had just purchased stopped by Mary’s Morning Mix-Up while a mariachi band was performing on the outdoor patio and took decibel readings from the Broadway Avenue sidewalk next to the business.
Village Manager Tim Wiberg said the village is trying to get baseline readings of what current noise levels are before determining what kind of decibel limits to propose.
“We don’t want to create limits that are already being exceeded, so we make sure that we’re establishing reasonable decibel limits in the ordinance and then go from there,” Wiberg said.
Wiberg and Kuruvilla told the village board that existing village ordinances regulating noise are difficult to enforce because they are too vague.
“There’s nothing enforceable, so we don’t enforce it,” Wiberg said.
Kuruvilla said that an effective noise ordinance would reference specific decibel levels that cannot be exceeded and would apply to amplified music.
“There needs to be specificity if we were to create a noise ordinance that can be regulated by the police department,” Kuruvilla said. “Vague and overly interpretative statute language brings with it First Amendment constitutional concerns of free speech.”
Kuruvilla’s memo to the village board contained summaries of noise ordinances from Elmhurst, Naperville, West Chicago and Lincolnwood, which had specific maximum decibel levels depending on the time of day and zoning.
Wiberg said if a decibel-specific noise ordinance is enacted, village events such as Music on Grand and carnivals would be exempt.
That does not sit well with Mary Vasquez, the owner of Mary’s Mix-Up, who told the Landmark that she sometimes feels like her place has been singled out.
“It just feels unfair,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said her place is not the only place in Brookfield that plays music outdoors.
“There’s music in the parks, there’s music at Brookfield Zoo, the village shuts down Grand, there’s music there. I just feel why now? Why all of a sudden now?” said Vasquez who lives in Brookfield. “What’s good for me should be good across the board for everybody.”
Vasquez said that when she has music it is only for a couple hours and ends by 10 p.m. or earlier.
“We open at 5 and the music starts at like 7 to 9. Nine o’clock lately has been like the latest we are done,” Vasquez said. “It’s summertime, it’s a couple of months and we take a couple breaks within the two hours that they’re playing music.”
Wiberg said that if such a decibel-specific noise ordinance is enacted it would be enforced judiciously.
“You don’t use it every day, you only use it in extreme cases,” Wiberg said. “Our police are very good and very sensitive in knowing when to apply a violation and when not to, but what it does it gives you an objective standard when you need it.”
In response to complaints Vasquez has already drastically reduced the number of evenings that she offers outdoor music.
“All I wanted was to bring something different to Brookfield,” Vasquez said, “to have a community place where people can go with their families.”
Village board members seem interested in considering a decibel-specific noise ordinance.
“This is a good beginning,” said village board member Jennifer Hendricks last month, adding that she would like to see construction noise and noise from landscaping services also addressed.