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Newport Beach's Twin Palms to Fall Silent

The restaurant and live music venue, involved in a continual dispute with Four Seasons hotel over noise, will close Jan. 31.


Twin Palms restaurant in Newport Beach, which has been involved in a running battle with the nearby Four Seasons hotel over noise, has closed its doors to the public and will shut down permanently at the end of the month.

The trendy French bistro, which featured live music that drew complaints from hotel guests, will be open only for private parties until it vacates the site Jan. 31, the restaurant said Monday.

The closure will have no effect on the original Twin Palms in Pasadena, which opened in 1994. A Twin Palms restaurant that opened last year in Valencia is operated by a separate management company.

The open-air Newport Beach restaurant, which featured a billowing tent-like canopy, would draw crowds with acts such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo Diddley and also featured local rock bands.

Despite repeated efforts to muzzle the noise, the restaurant continued to draw complaints, said Jim Barthe, co-owner and partner in a management group that includes Cindy Costner, former wife of actor Kevin Costner.

When city officials began a review of the restaurant's operating permits, the owners decided to close, Barthe said.

Music Was 'Key to Our Concept'

"The musical aspect of Twin Palms is key to our concept," Barthe said. "If you can't do that the way it's supposed to be done, then it's time to move on."

City officials, responding to frequent complaints, had planned an administrative hearing into whether the restaurant was violating noise regulations, said City Manager Homer Bludau.

The restaurant was last open to the public on New Year's Eve.

Twin Palms opened its Newport Beach restaurant in 1995, and the noise conflict between two of the city's ritziest businesses began almost immediately, eventually triggering a legal battle between the Fashion Island tenants.

Four Seasons spokeswoman Carrie Olson said the 285-room hotel, where guests pay from $320 to $3,600 a day, sometimes had to move guests upset over the noise to rooms located farthest from the music.

"If we were sold out, there was no place to move those people," she said.

In 1996, the upscale hotel filed a lawsuit against the open-air restaurant, alleging that the establishment's live music was at "high and invasive levels" and kept guests from sleeping at night. The hotel wanted its neighbor to turn down the volume or unplug amplifiers from 10 p.m. until the 2 a.m. closing time.

Twin Palms had insisted the sound tests showed that its bands did not violate city noise standards and that a ban on late-night music would destroy its business.

The lawsuit was dropped after the restaurant took steps to muffle the music, installing two 500-pound curtains made of lead and repositioning the speakers.

But with the two neighbors a mere 600 feet from each other, the conflict still festered.

Olson acknowledged that Twin Palms attempted to reduce the noise but said, "this is such a quiet community that all that muffling just was not as effective as it needed to be. You could still hear the bands on the weekends. It was this black cloud hanging over their head all the time."

The restaurant also decided that making further investments to control the sound was "well beyond what we were in the position to commit to the project," said Barthe, Twin Palms' co-owner.

The Irvine Co., which owns the restaurant and hotel sites, will lease the restaurant facility to the Four Seasons, which plans to convert the space into a ballroom for banquets, weddings and corporate parties.

Converting the site to an annex of the Four Seasons "makes the best sense," said Dick Sim, president of investment properties for Irvine Co. "Now when any noise comes out, they won't have anyone to argue with."

Olson said there will be live music at some of the events--but not after 10 p.m.

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