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Outdoor music will end at midnight during Rivertown Days

Outdoor music at local bars like Dugarel's, Green Mill and Tubby's will only be allowed until midnight during this year's Rivertown Days weekend, as opposed to the 1 a.m. end time that has been allowed in the past.

The decision to create a midnight cutoff for outdoor music has drawn criticism from bar owners, but the city is saying the midnight time is good from a public safety and consistency standpoint, and the issues could have been worked out if the bar owners hadn't waited until the last minute to submit their requests to have the outdoor concerts.

Liquor licenses in Hastings are issued by the city and if a restaurant or bar wants to serve alcohol outside of its building, or hold a special event like a tent dance where alcohol is served, it has to apply for a temporary variance to its liquor license from the city.

At a Hastings City Council meeting June 15, the council had three requests for variances for outdoor concerts where liquor would be served, one from Green Mill, one from Tubby's, and one from Dugarel's. All three were asking for different end times. Green Mill wanted midnight, Dugarels wanted 1 a.m., and Tubby's asked for 1:40 a.m.

Based on noise complaints from past years, a desire for a consistent end time for logistical and public safety reasons, and a recommendation from Hastings Police Chief Mike McMenomy, the council voted to impose a midnight end time for all three establishments.

McMenomy said he felt midnight was a reasonable time to have outdoor music end. He said with bars in residential neighborhoods, you have to consider the neighbors who may be trying to sleep or get their kids to go to sleep.

Mayor Paul Hicks said the Rivertown Days music at Levee Park ends at 10 p.m. He said just because the outdoor music has to end at midnight doesn't mean the bars have to close, and they can continue to serve alcohol both inside and outside until their regular closing time.

"Businesses have to be good neighbors too, and after midnight, it gets a little late," he said.

That doesn't sit will with bar owners like Greg Jablonske, who's co-owner of Dugarel's.

"Nobody is going to want to stand out in a tent with no music," he said.

Dugarel's co-owner Jessie Ritter said she was surprised and disappointed by the council's decision. She said Rivertown Days weekend is the biggest in terms of sales for many local bars, and cutting an hour off Dugarel's outdoor music will hurt their bottom line. As it stands today, Dugarel's already has a signed contract with The Johnny Holm Band to play until 1 a.m.

Jablonske said the short notice isn't fair to businesses.

"We asked them to abide by the rules they had, and they're trying to change it in the 11th hour," he said.

The issue was back before the Hastings City Council for the second time at Monday's council meeting because Council Member Tony Nelson made a motion to reconsider the issue.

Nelson said he'd support a midnight end time for music at next year's Rivertown Days, but said changing it a month before the event isn't fair for businesses.

At Monday's council meeting, City Administrator Dave Osberg said there's nothing in the liquor license ordinance that prevents businesses from submitting their requests for outdoor music events in advance of the event. Dugarel's submitted its request June 10 and Tubby's sent its request to the city June 9. Osberg said starting the conversation earlier could have allowed some of the issues to be avoided.

After the June 15 vote to impose the midnight closing time, Dugarel's started a petition to change the time back to 1 a.m., garnering nearly 400 signatures. Ritter said the majority of the community supports Rivertown Days events and know that it's only one weekend a year where they have to put up with some loud music going late into the night.

"My feeling is midnight is not acceptable for a Rivertown Days event," she said. "If they (the city) aren't going to support the businesses in the community during a community event, then you shouldn't have the event."

The council defeated Nelson's motion to reconsider the issue at Monday's meeting in a 4-2 vote with Nelson and Council Member Mike Slavik on the losing side.

"We're changing these things weeks, days before events, and that's bad planning on all sides," Slavik said.

Jablonske said Dugarel's is going to try to change the layout of its stage so the music can be moved inside at midnight. Tubby's co-owner Sarah Miska also said they're trying to change plans around to bring the music inside after midnight.