Revelry rules loosened
Mayor Dana Williams, a musician who frequently plays with his band on Main Street, cast a rare deciding vote on Thursday night, siding with nightclubs and restaurants in their push to allow revelers to be on decks and patios at their establishments later into the night.
The Park City Council cast a tie vote, with Roger Harlan and Joe Kernan in favor of the looser rules and Marianne Cone and Candy Erickson opposing them. City Councilman Jim Hier was not in attendance, leaving Williams to cast his ‘Yea’ vote.
The Thursday vote capped a two-day dispute between Main Street and people who live in the neighborhood. The people with businesses on Main Street, especially restaurants and bars, argued over two hearings, the first in front of the Planning Commission on Wednesday and the second before the City Council, that loosening the rules would make the street more vibrant. But neighbors complained that Main Street is already noisy enough and that they did not want more people outside into the late-night hours.
The City Council vote allows businesses holding liquor licenses to use decks and patios until midnight. Previously, the decks were required to shut down at 10 p.m., forcing people inside if they wanted to stay. The rule impacts some of the nightclubs on Main Street.
The elected officials said the rule would last 90 days, which allows them to revisit the discussion if needed before the start of the prime ski season, when Main Street typically bustles.
The debates on Wednesday and Thursday illustrated what has long been a tenuous relationship between Main Street and some of the people who live in the neighborhood.
Lots of people have moved into Old Town, with many houses situated just off Main Street, and some of them expect a relatively quiet neighborhood. But Main Street is one of Utah’s prime spots for partying, with nightclubs sometimes drawing huge crowds and restaurants seating people into the night. The Police Department often receives noise complaints from neighbors.
Over the two hearings, each drawing raucous crowds, the neighbors complained about the noise and pleaded for City Hall to support their side. Businesspeople argued that the looser regulations are needed to stay competitive and some neighbors said they live in Old Town because it is a hopping place.
"Sundance doesn’t happen in Silver Springs," said Karri Hays, who has lived on upper Park Avenue, a block from Main Street, for 36 years, telling the crowd that people who live in a downtown should expect a busy neighborhood. "At the center of it all, there’s noise . . . It’s background, it’s city noise."
But Ron Duffaut, another upper Park Avenue resident, was displeased with the idea, saying that the people who own the businesses leave Main Street at night to sleep somewhere more quiet.
"I didn’t come to Park City to have to wear earplugs," Duffaut said.
Liza Simpson, who lives on Main Street, said she preferred that rule be put into effect during time when Park City is busier and that people in the neighborhood are "a little noise-weary" from big construction projects like the parking garage in Swede Alley that opened earlier in the year.
"We’ve had pretty much constant noise," she said.
The comments were wide ranging and, combined, the two City Hall panels heard from about 30 people over the two days, a strong turnout compared to most other issues the government has addressed in recent months. The testimony was split but there was a strong showing of Main Street businesses arguing for the later hours.
David Chaplin, who lives on Prospect Avenue, south of Main Street, said he hears music from the north end of Main Street and, if the 10 p.m. restriction was in place, it would be quiet overnight.
But Mike Sweeney, whose family has business interests on lower Main Street, said the street needs vibrancy.
"We need every edge we can have with our competition," Sweeney said, warning that Park City cannot be seen as a place where "we roll up to street" at 10 p.m. "They’re here to spend and have a good time."
Others claimed it would be a "travesty" if people were forced inside at 10 p.m., that Park City faces a stigma that Utah lacks fun places to visit and that decks and patios are important to business.
Harlan, the City Councilor who supported the looser rules, told the crowd as he explained his vote that Park City’s party-town image is well known, saying that Park City should not be compared to Magna.
"Park City is what it is and it’s going to be that way," Harlan said.
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Tourism revenue increased month over month this summer, the Park City Chamber/Bureau reported, but lodging numbers are still off 22% for December. Officials reported a recent uptick in bookings, though, pointing to a modicum of certainty after ski resorts announced their COVID-related opening policies.