City council hears bar petition

VERGENNES — At last Tuesday’s city council meeting, aldermen dealt with a petition asking that they deny Bar Antidote permission to serve alcohol on its patio, which has five tables with 20 chairs. The business is at the corner of School and Green streets.
Area residents Cindy Paquette and Val Kittredge presented the petition, signed by about 20 residents, asking aldermen to deny the permit.
“It is incredibly noisy every single night the bar is open,” Paquette said, adding that she felt “the light (from the patio) and the noise is beyond intrusive.”
Kittredge said, “It was a pretty noisy summer. It was hard to enjoy your space while listening to people partying.”
The two women also said they represented their neighbors.
“They all had a story to tell (about noise),” Paquette said. “They all signed the petition freely.”
Bar co-owner Harper Michaels said he and his employees have put up signs asking patrons to respect the neighborhood, have consistently worked with customers to maintain quiet, and that many of the complaints filed have proven to be unfounded or based on noise coming from other sources.
“We get many calls when the noise isn’t coming from us,” said Michaels, who added the business owners were working more toward a restaurant atmosphere and were willing to use dimmer lights. He said he had not been told previously that the lighting was an issue for neighbors.
Co-owner Ian Huizenga said he and Michaels were surprised by the petition because the neighbors had not complained directly to them for a year, had not spoken to them before filing the document, and were refusing to consider anything short of a complete shutdown of the patio despite the owners’ previous attempts at finding common ground.
“There has never been any step in harmony back toward us,” Huizenga said, adding, “We will hopefully work with people, but we got blindsided by this on Friday … We don’t want people screaming and yelling out there, and I don’t think that’s the case.”
City Manager Mel Hawley said police had recorded four noise complaints last summer about Bar Antidote, one each in June and July in which police reported that employees quickly complied in quieting patrons, and two in August in which no noise was found.
Hawley said he wanted to further research police records to make sure no complaints had been missed, and aldermen agreed to table until their next meeting the issue of whether to allow outside consumption at Bar Antidote.
After the meeting, Hawley and Mayor Michael Daniels were asked if anyone except Paquette and Kittredge had ever contacted them directly to complain, and both men said no one had.
Daniels also said that aldermen had discussed noise complaints in the area a year ago and concluded that some noise came from renters, not from businesses.
In other business, aldermen:
• Heard a generally rosy budget report from Hawley. Hawley, for example, said the winter’s light snowfall has meant savings. “You can really see from a labor standpoint how easy a winter it has been,” he said.
• Approved a request from the city’s farmers’ market to do business on the city green on Thursdays instead of Mondays this season. Alderwoman Chris Collette said the market members said Monday evening concerts created a minor conflict, and they felt Thursdays would be a better time. Hours will be 3 to 7 p.m.
• Heard from Alderman David Austin that the skate park committee is beginning to organize to open the facility, with fund-raising and clean-up events planned. Austin is also seeking adult volunteers to supervise the park; those interested may contact him at 349-5543.
• Approved liquor and tobacco licenses for Wesco Inc., which plans to take over Vergennes Variety and change it to a Champlain Farms. Wesco representative Michael Simendinger told the council the business model on the site would remain the same, but that Wesco would “put some money in the building … and make some improvements over time.”
• Heard from Hawley that he continues to work on the planned move of the historic wooden rail depot from North Main Street to a spot next to the Agency of Transportation commuter lot near Kayhart Crossing. Hawley said the depot will need bathrooms and an elevator and may require an addition. The move will be funded by federal grants funneled through the city from VTrans.
• Heard from Daniels that he and former Alderman Craig Miner would coordinate the city’s Green-Up Day efforts.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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