Editorial: Jury’s verdict is loud and clear
For all we’ve been hearing about noise in downtown Aspen, on Wednesday it took a jury took less than 10 minutes to send a loud and clear message: Decibel meters can’t effectively measure noise in an area where multiple sources of sound exist.
We commend the six-person jury for finding Aspen Brewing Co., located on Hopkins Avenue’s Restaurant Row, not guilty of violating the city’s noise limit, which is 60 decibels after 9 p.m.
We also commend the owners of Aspen Brewing Co. for taking this case to trial.
The trial came after police cited the brewery three times — twice in August and once in September — because its live music allegedly violated the city’s downtown sound restrictions.
Police weren’t actively cracking down on Aspen Brewing; instead they were simply doing their jobs because couple Michael Sedoy and Natalia Shvachko, who inhabit a penthouse above the bar, had complained to authorities about the noise.
We also view the Sedoy-Shvachko tandem’s bellyaching as a failed bid to vanillify downtown, to their benefit, when downtown Aspen’s nightlife is in need of a boost. There’s no reason two people should shape downtown’s character because they find it disruptive to their lifestyle. That’s not to say they don’t have rights. They do have rights, and they used them to complain to police. But they ultimately lost in a court of law.
Likewise, Aspen Brewing Co. exercised its rights to prevail in a jury trial. Jurors later told the Aspen Daily News that they couldn’t convict the Aspen brewery because it was impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the decibel meter’s readings. In theory, some of the noise picked up by the decibel meter could have come from another nearby bar or restaurant.
Nobody wants to go to trial, but based on Wednesday’s verdict, that appears to be a sound strategy for downtown merchants if they’re ever cited for a noise transgression while conducting business as usual. That’s unless the City Council revisits its noise ordinance and determines an effective and reasonable way to enforce it without crippling downtown’s nightlife. Or, as Councilman Adam Frisch suggested as a potential option, the city creates a special “entertainment zone” for bars and restaurants in specific areas.
Meanwhile, for all of their complaining about Aspen Brewing Co. and its incidental noise, perhaps it’s Sedoy and Shvachko who need to tone it down. They can complain all they want, but Wednesday’s verdict showed they’re the losers in this fight.