Over objections from its Mansion Hill neighbors, the Edgewater Hotel was granted an entertainment license by the Madison Alcohol License Review Committee early Thursday morning.
Wednesday night's hearing prompted many immediate neighbors of the hotel to air their grievances over what they describe as an unacceptable level of noise coming from the facility for extended periods of time. Meanwhile, proponents of the hotel applauded its offerings to the community and access to the lake.
In 2012, the city and the $100 million hotel reached a Public Access Management Agreement that covers uses, noise, events and activities in the public access area of the hotel. Edgewater management believed they had been operating in good faith of that agreement.
However, that agreement is not a substitute for an entertainment or a liquor license.
“It is completely within the the City’s discretion to grant or deny either one of those license,” states a memo from the city attorney’s office.
The Edgewater had been operating since 2014 without an entertainment license. The hotel had applied for and was granted a license in May 2014 but never picked it up or paid for it, according to the city attorney’s office.
Establishments that want to offer live music, DJs or a designated dance floor must obtain an entertainment license from the city. The city informed the hotel on July 3 that it would have to stop hosting entertainment events immediately, but could apply for five temporary entertainment licenses for the rest of its summer calendar.
Under the license approved by the committee early Thursday morning, the Edgewater must keep noise at the street level under 70 decibels and outdoor public events that fall under the entertainment license usage are limited to 35 per year, excluding private events such as weddings and corporate functions.
Also, a “band shell” will be used during amplified music events unless a larger tent is used, and the license will be reviewed by the ALRC at its annual renewal meeting, which typically occurs in May.
The committee voted 3-1 on the license with Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, voting against because he felt the number of outdoor events should be lower.
Since opening, the Edgewater has hosted a number of events and has also received numerous noise complaints from neighbors, including 20-year Kennedy Manor resident Carol Poore. She described the noise from the Edgewater as “obnoxious and intrusive” and categorized the hotel as the “worst neighbor imaginable.”
“The constant racket is so disturbing that I cannot enjoy normal conversations in my own apartment or concentrate on listening to my own music or watching TV,” Poore said.
This summer, the hotel hosted live music three nights a week on its outdoor plaza and approximately 70 live music events between May and September, according to the city attorney’s office.
The Madison police officer assigned to the Langdon Neighborhood, Shawn Kelly, said noise complaints are generally the only reason he is called to the hotel. Committee had no complaints about the Edgewater’s liquor license, which encompasses the entire facility.
“It seems to me if we weren’t talking music, we wouldn’t be talking at all,” committee chair Tom Landgraf said.
However, Edgewater representatives said they have made numerous concessions to the neighborhood in response to noise concerns.
Edgewater director of special events Melanie Drobac said staff have self-imposed an 80-decibel noise limit (lower than what is allowed at Breese Stevens Field and Central Park), ending events at 9 p.m., pushing back festival start times to 2 p.m., discontinuing the use of live music under a large tent and cutting back the number of live events on the outdoor place from three times a week to two.
Edgewater senior vice president and chief operating officer Amy Supple introduced a new plan that would schedule 20 summer concert series events, down by half from this summer, from June through August. It would also require the use of a “band shell” to contain noise, control for sound levels and follow a security plan.
“We have been a good neighbor making multiple concessions and trying to address concerns as we’ve gone and in the end, our plan is fair and provides a win for all parties,” Supple said.
Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2, wanted to further limit the number of outdoor events the Edgewater can host on its outdoor plaza to 15 outdoor events per year that require an entertainment license to balance the interests of the hotel and neighbors who are affected by the noise.
“I’m trying to be sensitive to real people with real lives who have homes that they want to be able to live in and open their windows and not have to run away to get away from somebody else’s music,” Zellers said.
She said in a memo it is unreasonable for the hotel to continue having as many outdoor bands and amplified sound events as it has hosted in the past and that she is seeking a balance for District 2 residents, the Edgewater and Madison residents who attend the hotel’s events.
“The Edgewater does have some very desireable and wonderful events there and have certainly done some great things in supporting some great organizations,” Zellers said at the meeting. “However, these wonderful events are really only wonderful if you can choose whether to go or not go, if you can choose when to leave, when to listen.”