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Friday, April 18, 2014
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Published: 8/2/2008

Use politics and police complaints to fight bar s outdoor music

Answer: I don t blame you for being outraged and out of patience. You should be able to enjoy your home without having a neighbor whether it s a bar or just the guy next door disrupt your life by playing loud music. You should not have to lose sleep because this bar has decided that blasting music helps its business.

I recommend a few courses of action for you to consider, some legal and some simply political.

You mentioned Toledo s noise ordinance, which certainly applies here. A few sections of the municipal code prohibit loud music or amplified sound past 9 p.m. It seems the bar is clearly violating the ordinance and that the police could cite the owner. The problem, though, is that a violation of the noise laws is only punishable by a minor misdemeanor and it doesn t appear from the code that there s any way to escalate the penalties based on repeat infractions. Minor fines and court costs may not be enough of a deterrent for the bar owner if he thinks the music helps his business. And the truth is that most Toledo police officers probably don t rank hassling a bar over loud music very high on the priority list compared to the serious crimes they have to confront every night.

You also mentioned you ve contacted a few city councilmen, which is a smart move. I think you d get a better response, though, if you and your neighbors worked together on this problem. One person complaining can be ignored, but a group of people tenaciously and aggressively demanding action shows an elected official that this is a wider concern. Despite the knocks that political officials take every day sometimes deservedly most of them really do want to help when they can. So, if you can present your district councilman and all the at-large councilmen with a petition signed by a lot of your neighbors, it might motivate them to take action.

And, while we re talking about city council, let s not forget about Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Call his office and complain. Ask to speak to him personally. Hand-deliver the petition to his office and send a copy to him in the mail. The mayor has a lot on his plate, but if you can get his attention, he s the type of guy who could certainly solve this problem with one phone call.

This is the point at which politics intermingles with the law. The city could file a civil action against the bar alleging a nuisance and ask for a temporary and permanent halt to the loud music.

If the city won t pursue a nuisance action, maybe your neighbors will feel strongly enough about the situation to pool money for a lawyer. Like the city, the lawyer could seek an order from the court that would prohibit the bar from playing loud music on its outdoor patio. If your case is strong enough, the court could issue a temporary order that would be effective immediately and would stay in place until the judge decides whether a permanent prohibition is warranted. But you should be forewarned that nuisance laws can be somewhat tricky. As one court observed, there is perhaps no more impenetrable jungle in the entire law than that which surrounds the word nuisance. From my limited review of nuisance cases, I think that s a fair assessment, but you hire lawyers to figure that stuff out.

It seems to me that you ve taken this as far as you can on your own. You and your neighbors need to band together so you can put some pressure on the elected officials to get this problem solved. If that doesn t work, you re going to have to find the money for a lawyer and prepare for a fight.

Dale Emch practices law at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC, in Toledo. In his column, he will discuss general legal principles and answer readers questions. Neither Mr. Emch nor The Blade present or intend his column to be taken as legal advice. Readers seeking legal advice should consult with an attorney. Readers should send their questions to Mr. Emch at demch@charlesboyk-law.com or Dale Emch, 405 Madison Ave., Suite 1200, Toledo, OH 43604.



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