REDONDO BEACH — With tens of thousands of dollars invested in their 46-foot sailboat docked at the International Boardwalk, Don Sudduth and Taylor Dale say they are entitled to a little peace and quiet when they retreat to the vessel on lazy weekends.
With tens of thousands of dollars invested in their storefront restaurants nestled along the same stretch of boardwalk, William Wan and Ben Zeinaty say they are entitled to make a living from the weekend crowds that deluge the pier area.
For several months, the boatmen and restaurateurs along Pier 56 have been locked in a nasty dispute that has pitted topsider against cowboy boot, stereo against electric guitar and seafaring vessel against landlocked eating establishment.
At issue is entertainment on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the Harbor Seafood Restaurant and Naja's Place--entertainment that Wan and Zeinaty describe as an important revenue maker but that the boatmen characterize as an annoying invasion of their privacy.
"I am chagrined that the respective parties have not been able to work this out themselves," said city Harbor Director Sheila Schoettger, who has been attempting to resolve the dispute since February. "It is possible for both uses to be compatible in one area."
In recent weeks, as boat owners' complaints have mounted and tempers on land and sea have flared, the dispute has focused on the Colter Brothers band, a country and western ensemble that entertains at Wan's Harbor Seafood Restaurant.
Boat owners say the five-member group plays so loudly that they have been unable to watch television, listen to their stereos or entertain guests on the boats. Several boat owners have become so fed up that they now avoid the pier on weekends, Sudduth, Dale and several other boat owners said.
"Keep the music in the restaurant," boat owner Ron Karlosky said. "I have a right to the air and to freedom of listening and speech. I can't turn them off."
Boaters Summon Police
For several months, angry boat owners have been calling police when the music becomes too loud--a move that temporarily quiets the band but also worsens already deteriorated relations between the boardwalk neighbors. Schoettger said the police have verified as many as four noise violations on a single afternoon.
The Colter Brothers and restaurant owners say they are trying to be good neighbors but complain that the boatmen are making unreasonable demands. Besides, they said, the restaurants have long tolerated the noxious exhaust fumes that blast into the businesses when sailboats maneuver in and out of the harbor with their engines.
"We are just asking for a fair chance--as a small band, we can't get that kind of exposure in any nightclub in Los Angeles," said Luke Colter, lead vocalist of the group. "People know about us from all over the country. We have people coming from as far as Alhambra to hear us."
Two months ago, after petitioning the City Council, the boat owners persuaded the city to invoke a little-known clause in the entertainment license issued to Harbor Seafood Restaurant. The clause requires Wan to close all windows and doors whenever entertainment is provided.
To no one's surprise, it wasn't long before customers were baking in the closed quarters, and Wan was back in Harbor Director Schoettger's office requesting that the requirement be lifted. "Let's face it," Schoettger said this week. "In the summertime they could not provide entertainment. It would be a sweatbox."
Schoettger proposed a compromise that would allow the windows to be opened if Wan agreed to reduce the band to three members and to eliminate amplification of music. Under the proposal, plainclothes police officers periodically would monitor the noise from nearby boats and businesses to ensure that the music did not exceed the city limit of 60 decibels.
Colter: Need Entire Band
But the Harbor Department compromise, branded by the Colter Brothers as the closest thing to being run out of town, ignited yet another squabble between the cowboys and boatmen--this time in front of the City Council.
"Our band consists of five people," Colter explained to the council this week. "With one missing it doesn't work."
"I have been living down there for six years," countered Sudduth. "I don't have a yacht with exhaust. I have a sailboat with a small engine."
"We have been losing business ever since the windows and doors have been closed," Wan complained. "People come to Redondo Beach for the sun and the air. They don't come to sit in a restaurant with the doors and windows closed."
In a move welcomed by both sides, the council agreed to give Wan and the Colter Brothers two weeks to reduce the noise. Complaints substantiated by police after then will automatically result in revocation of the entertainment permit, the council ruled.
Attempts to Cut Noise
The decision, while potentially more devastating for the restaurant than the Harbor Department compromise, allows the Colter Brothers to continue their performances if they do not exceed the 60-decibel limit. The council also agreed to provide the band with police sound meters during the next two weeks so it can experiment with the noise readings and attain a legal level before the grace period expires.
This weekend, the group will move the stage to the rear of the restaurant and begin applying cork to window panels to help absorb noise even when the windows are open.
"We all enjoy western music more than we enjoy any other music," said boat owner Dale, who welcomed the proposed alterations. "That has not been the point. It has simply been too loud."