The noise war between Chelo’s Waterfront and Cowesett residents is still booming after two years.
Jan Kovan, who lives 2,000 feet from Chelo’s on Reeland Avenue, and Arnold’s Neck homeowner Lisa McDuff claim this summer has been worse than last summer, as they say loud music coming from the establishment’s outdoor patio continues to be heard throughout the neighborhood.
On Aug. 31, they contacted the Warwick Police Department (WPD) and an officer took decibel readings of 52.9, 54 and 53.4 at 10:25 p.m. According to a city noise ordinance, decibel readings must not be in excess of 50 decibels after 10 p.m.
The WPD issued Chelo’s, located at 1 Masthead Drive off Post Road, a citation for excessive noise, accompanied by notification that Chelo’s appear in Municipal Court on Oct. 17. This is their first offense.
“If the city ordinance violation is sustained,” Col. Stephen McCartney wrote in an e-mail to the Warwick Beacon, “the penalty is $50 for first and second offense.”
McCartney said Chelo’s must also appear before the Warwick Board of Public Safety on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. because they are in violation of the stipulations the board placed on their live entertainment license. The board will determine the penalty of this violation if sustained.
While Kovan and McDuff said they understand that Chelo’s has the right to showcase live music, the women also wish they would keep it down. They hope the Board of Public Safety decreases Chelo’s entertainment hours and dictates what type of music is played.
“They don’t have to have these big bands,” said Kovan, a Cowesett resident for 20 years. “They are operating as a nightclub. Their music comes straight to me over a marsh and vibrates the house. We’ve just had it. We listen to this for six months out of the year from May to October four days of the week – Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between four to eight hours at a time.”
Chelo’s hosts live bands from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, 7 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays, and Sundays from 2 to 8 p.m. They are allowed to play at 60 decibels before 10 p.m.
McDuff pointed out that neighbors sometimes deal with the noise five days a week when holidays fall on Mondays. Her home is about a half-mile from Chelo’s and she said the issue has evolved over the years.
“It’s gotten steadily worse,” said McDuff. “It’s a disruption to my quality of life. I can’t even go outside and enjoy my deck, which overlooks a beautiful bird sanctuary. It’s a constant thumping, pounding [and] banging.”
Dr. Tariq Malik lives across from Chelo’s on Island View Drive with his family and also has an issue with the noise. In addition to being a physician, he teaches medicine at Brown University and has a graduate degree in Public Health from Harvard.
He views the music as “intrusive,” and feels Chelo’s interferes not only with his “pursuit of happiness,” but also negatively impacts the health and quality of life of other local residents.
“Imposition, by force, of unpleasant noise has been shown in scientific studies to be injurious to health, causing anxiety, stress, increase in heart rate, elevation of blood pressure, post traumatic stress,” he wrote to the Beacon in an e-mail.
Malik also referred to it as “environmental pollution.” He said “raunchy, sexually explicit” lyrics are often clearly audible and not suitable for a young audience.
“We cannot enjoy sitting outdoors in the summer, or indoors with windows open, to enjoy conversation among family and friends, listen to our own favorite music, pursue serious professional work or intellectual pursuits because of the nuisance and distraction,” said Malik. “I suggest incessant outdoor noise, several hours a week, irrespective of decibel requirements, must abate.”
The Law Offices of Michael A. Kelly, which represents Chelo’s, issued a statement to the Beacon on the issue. It was sent on behalf of Nicholas J. Goodier, Esq., who wrote that Chelo’s management disagrees with the violation. The restaurant’s management disputes the citation and intends on challenging it “vigorously.”
“Notably, this is the first such citation that has been received by the Restaurant in 20 years of doing business,” he wrote. “During that period, the Chelo’s family has worked harmoniously with the community, employing hundreds, and hosting thousands, of city residents. In addition, the Chelo’s family has taken extraordinary steps to alleviate issues related to parking and sound as they have arisen.”
In an interview with the Beacon last year, Chelo’s co-owner Glenn Chelo said he would have been forced to close the restaurant if they had not been allowed to showcase bands, resulting in the loss of jobs not only for more than 100 Chelo’s employees, but also less work for local musicians.
He said they stopped booking acts that drew the largest and loudest crowds, have increased free valet parking, repositioned the $45,000 soundproof stage he had specially made for the venue and invested $15,000 on a sound system to control noise levels.
But Kovan and McDuff say his efforts have done little to remedy the situation.
“They cannot stay open as a restaurant apparently, so now we have a musical venue in the middle of a residential area,” Kovan said. “They have valet parking over a quarter of a mile away because they don’t have enough parking, so people are parking all over the place. Their employees have to park at the airport and they shuttle them over.”
McDuff said she can’t understand why the owners of Chelo’s classify the establishment as a family restaurant.
“It’s a pick-up place now,” she said. “There are no children there. When have you ever seen a family restaurant bus their employees in from another location because there isn’t enough parking?”
Kovan claims she invited representatives from Chelo’s to her home a few years ago to hear how loud the music is, but said they never showed. However, she claims the manager was taking a reading outside her home Sept. 1 and apologized for the noise levels, as he agreed it was too loud.
“You can’t sit at home with your windows open and get any peace,” she said.
McCartney said police would continue to respond to complaints, enforce the law and keep the peace.
“The police will stand by and be prepared to ensure that whatever remedy is put in place, is carried out, just as we have all summer over the last two years regarding this specific problem,” he wrote.
Leslie Baxter Walaska, chairwoman of the Board of Public Safety, was contacted regarding the issue but reserved comments until the meeting.