PROVINCETOWN — The owners of the Provincetown Brewing Company apologized to neighbors for past nuisances related to entertainment at the popular Bradford Street gathering place at a Dec. 7 hearing on their request for a special permit for outdoor entertainment. They promised that in the future they would tone down the noise.
The zoning board of appeals gave them the permit they were seeking — but it’s a temporary one.
Erik Borg and Christopher Hartley, who opened the brewery and restaurant in 2019, proposed to switch out the current outdoor speakers for smaller ground-level units that would have the sound level set at a maximum of 70 decibels for music and 80 for microphone use during events like trivia nights. Amplified sound to the patio would not start before 11 a.m. and would cease by 9 p.m.
In most instances, Borg and Hartley said, live performances would be indoors and broadcast outside on the new speakers. There would be times, such as trivia night, when events would be hosted from the patio, but shows featuring live music would stay indoors except when a permit for a given event is secured. Indoor performances would end no later than 10 p.m.
Borg and Hartley were also looking to lift an existing requirement from the licensing board that doors and windows remain closed when there is live indoor entertainment. The pair said the air-conditioning system sometimes falls short in hot weather.
The zoning board granted a temporary special permit for outdoor entertainment that would expire one year from the date of its issue but not before a lengthy discussion and input from the packed hearing room.
An initial permit request from Hartley and Borg in August drew a pile of letters from people living near the brewery expressing their opposition. So, the pair asked that the hearing be postponed for a few months while they met with many of those neighbors to hear their concerns.
Judging from the comments at the hearing, some were satisfied by those efforts and others were not.
The entertainment in the tap room is what draws in patrons, said Hartley and Borg, and it’s what allows the business to operate year-round.
“We’ve definitely learned in the last four years that programming is our bread and butter,” said Borg, who is also a select board member. “It’s frankly what is required for us to stay afloat.”
But two nearby guest house owners complained that the noise may sink their businesses. Guests of the Sunset Inn and the John Randall House staying in rooms facing the brewery’s patio often ask to move to the back of the building to get away from the amplified sound, the owners said. “The noise is deafening,” said Sunset Inn owner Adrian Padilla.
Gordon Siegel, who lives at 27 Standish St., stated his continued opposition to the permit.
“Unlike most of the cases you hear, this is not about a building setback, or a porch, or a swimming pool,” Siegel said. “Unlike those physical things, this is about sound: the possibility of outdoor amplified year-round noise.”
When Borg and Hartley first submitted their application in August, 19 letters of opposition came in from abutters, Siegel said. Even after the brewery owners’ meetings with neighbors only one had changed his position, according to Siegel.
Robert Littlefield, a former member of the zoning board who identified himself as “the traitor” who had backed off his opposition to the special permit, still had reservations. “I’m super complimentary about these guys: they started a business from scratch,” he said of Borg and Hartley. “It’s an appealing business, and it’s appealing to visitors to our town, but their location is tricky.”
Littlefield acknowledged that the two longtime guest houses across the street are “sound-sensitive” businesses. When the licensing board issued the original license for the brewery, he said, it came with extensive noise restrictions.
“Now we have a request for a special permit that would undo most of those,” Littlefield said. He wondered if a compromise could be reached. “There might be an in-between here that will keep everyone happy,” he said.
Todd Flaherty, who performs at the tap room, asked the zoning board “to hear a plea from a drag queen” who performs “with a wig and pads and all that stuff” — even in the heat of July. He hoped that the board would allow the brewery to open its windows and doors when the weather is hot.
Several other performers and members of local organizations who have fundraisers at the brewing company spoke in support of that provision. “You cannot have an event inside during the summer,” said Kristen Becker, founder of Summer of Sass. “It’s too hot. You just can’t do it.” Becker joined several other speakers in praising Borg and Hartley and asking the board to make an effort to find a compromise.
Becker suggested granting the permit, monitoring what happens, “and if they mess it up, you take it away.”
The temporary permit approved by the zoning board lifted the requirement that doors and windows remain closed during live entertainment in hot weather and set amplified sound at the decibel levels the brewery owners had requested and during the hours requested, but it limited live entertainment to scheduled programming and special events such as trivia nights and beer busts.