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City officials defend its position in Zorbaz noise ordinance case

Zorbaz, which has been a part of the Detroit Lakes, Minn., beach scene since 1969, will no longer be offering live music after the local city council sanctioned them for repeated noise violations this summer. Meagan Pittelko / Forum News Service1 / 2
The "epic awezome timez" promised to Zorbaz patrons as they walk inside the front entrance will be a lot quieter in future, as the Detroit Lakes, Minn., business will no longer be offering live music. Meagan Pittelko / Forum News Service2 / 2

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Detroit Lakes city officials were taken by surprise when Zorbaz canceled its live music indefinitely after being sanctioned for violating the noise ordinance.

"It's untrue that the city told Zorbaz it can't have live music anymore," said City Administrator Kelcey Klemm, in response to Internet rumors and petitions.

The council censured Zorbaz for three-times violating the city's noise ordinance. It voted to suspend Zorbaz' 2 a.m. liquor license for three days last weekend, requiring it to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. on those days. Alderman Jay Schurman cast the sole dissenting vote on the sanctions.

In response to the city's action, Zorbaz canceled its live music indefinitely, according to Zorbaz owner Cole Hanson. He said in an earlier story that it would be impossible for Zorbaz to properly host live music, given the city noise ordinance "as it's currently written and currently being enforced." He did not return messages left on his cell phone Monday and Tuesday.

The city did not act without warning, said City Administrator Kelcey Klemm. "This wasn't an overnight overreaction, or a knee-jerk interpretation," he said."We've been communicating with them since spring — even last year, with a letter from the former police chief."

The city has been very clear in its expectations, starting back in April, Klemm said, when Zorbaz applied for the noise permit for most weekends over the summer, except for during WE Fest.

Several neighbors unhappy with late-night noise from Zorbaz attended the April meeting of the city council committee that handles liquor and gaming licenses.

The noise permit, which was granted, allows Zorbaz to play music that can be heard up to 500 feet in any direction until midnight.

Without the permit, the noise ordinance kicks in at 10 p.m. and music cannot be audible over 50 feet away from the source.

Some of the unhappiest neighbors live in the condominiums on the west side of Zorbaz, including Garland and Carol Riendeau, who live on the east end of the condominium complex. "We have called the Police Department on seven different weekends," they said in a letter to the city in regards to Zorbaz' noise permit. "It is impossible to sleep with the amplified bass guitar and bass drums vibrating our building. We close our doors and windows tight. We turn on our air conditioner, we turn on our T.V. and still we can not get away from the noise and the bass vibrations.

"Zorbas is located in a residential neighborhood and it should have to comply with ordinary noise ordinances like everyone else who live in the City of Detroit Lakes," they added. "We feel they are taking advantage of the neighborhood and have created an attractive nuisance ... Citizens of Detroit Lakes have the RIGHT to sleep in their homes.

We love Detroit Lakes and want to be good stewards of the community, but feel Zorbas of Detroit Lakes noise permit should be disallowed and never re-issued again..."

But not all neighbors feel the same way. In a letter to the city, Bryan Domholt, who has lived across Summit Avenue from Zorbaz for 10 years, asked the council to let Zorbaz be Zorbaz, operating as it always has.

"At no time, does the music from Zorbaz bother me or my family," he wrote. "When I purchased my home, it came with the understanding that one of the most popular restaurants in the region was across the street. With that, you expect extra people and noise during the summer months. I guess what you can say is, it comes with the territory. A couple of times each summer, Tate Jansen will check with me to make sure there aren't or haven't been any problems regarding noise or any other issues.

"I appreciate what they do to bring people to town, and I believe their popularity increases the value of my property. Whatever they are doing, I say, keep doing it."

City officials have not talked to Zorbaz owners since they announced that live music would end. "Staff and council are here for questions or input," Klemm said. "At this point, we don't have anything scheduled or anything planned ... the city wants to work with Zorbaz and the neighborhood any way we can on compromise. We understand that Zorbaz is important to the community. We want them to be successful."

A $415,000 construction project now underway at the Detroit Lakes Zorbaz has nothing to do with the noise permit complaints. It involves remodeling the entryway with new doors, windows and roof features and moving and upgrading the kitchen area and equipment.