Invoking 50-Foot Rule, Residential Neighbors Force Live-Music Venue to Close Its Doors
by Marta Tarbell
Mar 07, 2012 | 1569 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TELLURIDE – The Llama, the spacious main street restaurant that morphed into a nightclub on a regular basis over the last six years, has shut down as a late-night live-music venue.

“I think it is just unfortunate for the town,” Llama General Manager Kyle Swenson said Tuesday, confirming reports of the closure of the nightclub portion of the restaurant in the mixed-used (commercial and residential) Winter Crown Building at the center of town.

“Of course I am bummed for the Llama,” said Swenson, of the loss of the stage that has hosted, over the years, a range of talent from Otis Taylor to the Emmett Nershi Band, the Wailers and Ana Sia (Sia, scheduled for a March 10 performance at the Llama, will play at Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, instead).

“But I think this is really unfortunate for the town,” Swenson said, of a situation stemming from what he called “a pretty big conflict” between the conflicting needs of business and residential tenants.

The big loser, he suggested, is Telluride, a tourist town where businesses fight hard to survive.

“The town needs a music venue to thrive to create business and attract visitors,” said Swenson.

Similar sentiments were expressed four years ago, when the Bubble Lounge, one block west of the Llama, above O’Bannon’s Bar, was shut down after repeated noise complaints from upstairs neighbors.

“What I ask you to think about is the precedent you are setting,” main street business owner Jennifer Hayes told

the Telluride Town Council, when one of “the top five complaints from tourists is the lack of nightlife.”

At that same meeting, Bubble Lounge neighbors told the other side of the story.

“We have tried earplugs, pillows over our head and sleeping pills – anything to be able to sleep through it,” said Suzanne Dahl.

“There are two kinds of noise,” added Bob Dempsey. “There is the music that is very loud and then there is the bass, which is the most frustrating. It is a constant pounding or vibration.”

THE 50 FEET RULE

Three late-February Telluride Marshal’s Office reports tell the tale of this latest clash between businesses and residents of a mixed-use building in the often noisy center of town.

On Feb. 23, the Llama’s longtime part-time upstairs neighbor Glenn Natiello called police and “angrily stated that the band was playing their music too loud,” but “upon arrival, the band had already stopped for the night,” wrote the responding officer. Summoned back two nights later, the officer wrote, “the music was reasonable for a live band…but the bass drum could be heard and felt very clearly when 50 feet or more away from the building.”

According to the Town Municipal Code, any “device for producing sound…in such a manner as to be plainly audible a distance of 50 feet from the building or vehicle in which hit is located” is a violation.

On Feb. 26, called to the Llama a third time by Natiello, officers reported that “the music did not reach the level of unnecessary noise,” but that Natiello, who “wanted contact after contact with the Llama,” went on to advise officers “that he knew the town ordinance better than the marshal’s department and that he could hear music more than 50 feet away….He then advised me to ‘uphold the … law.’”

According to Swenson, because a clause in the Llama’s lease calls for taking a “tolerant” approach to neighbors, Llama “representatives” have closed the tap on live music and are looking closely at the lease.

Llama landlord Richard Groman declined to comment on the situation. Meanwhile, some of the live-music acts scheduled for the Llama will be rebooked into Fly Me to the Moon.
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