Another conclusion is possible

Published 8:58 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015

As Suffolk struggles to bring folks back to the downtown to shop, eat and enjoy entertainment, city officials are experiencing the inevitable friction between those who are used to the quiet, economically depressed area it has been and those who are working to shake things up a bit, recognizing that making downtown Suffolk a vibrant, vital economic engine will likely require revving the motor and making a little noise.

Among those in a small group of people working to get more bodies downtown on any given night are a growing collection of nightclub and restaurant owners who are seeking to add live entertainment to the mix of entertainment offerings in their establishments.

Clearly not every restaurant in Suffolk needs to hold Blues Night in order to get patrons to visit, but for the city’s bars, especially, having the freedom to host bands and other live entertainment helps them compete with other club venues in neighboring areas. Many people have favorite nightclubs they visit regularly, but an appearance by an interesting musician nearby might help entice them to visit one closer to home for a change.

Email newsletter signup

For restaurateurs, those new customers bring new money to their businesses, and they represent a chance for the restaurant to earn repeat business through great products and customer service.

Those are the kinds of arguments nightclub owners use when they approach the city for the permits necessary to offer live music. Sometimes — as in the July case of Toke Hookah Lounge at 137 W. Washington St. — those arguments are sufficient to convince officials to support the proposals.

Other times — as in the case this week with a request from Derl’z restaurant on East Pinner Street — the best business arguments prove insufficiently convincing in the face of what seems like common sense. The same Planning Commission that recommended City Council allow the hookah lounge entertainment back in July recommended that council deny the entertainment permit at Derl’z on Tuesday.

To be sure, there were differences between the two requests. It would be unfair and unwise to ignore the fact that the former request was for indoor entertainment and the latter for a permit to hold outdoor events.

But there’s a reasonable case to be made that folks living in the same building with the hookah lounge are more likely to be bothered by the noise of a band playing indoors on the other side of a wall than are the nearest neighbors in houses more than the length of a football field away from Derl’z, even when the restaurant is hosting outdoor entertainment.

It’s not entirely surprising that the Planning Commission recommended denying the Derl’z permit. Suggesting that it be approved might set an uncomfortable precedent for ignoring what would normally be common sense. Still, it would be appropriate for City Council to give the request its sincere consideration in November. Some situations are exceptional; when they are, “common sense” doesn’t always lead to the right conclusions.