WOONSOCKET – A local business owner says he feels he’s being singled out after noise complaints at his restaurant prompted the City Council to require extra sound-dampening measures before he can renew his entertainment license.
Mike Drainville, owner of Black restaurant on Mendon Road, said he’s not sure exactly what standard he has to meet to make noise levels acceptable outside his establishment. The council last week required him to install a sound barrier and end all outdoor entertainment by 9 p.m.
“I do feel a bit like I’m being singled out,” Drainville told The Breeze.
Councilor John Ward and Council President Daniel Gendron said they’d received noise complaints from neighbors when the restaurant’s outdoor entertainment license came before the council for renewal last week. Ward said he visited the area while the outdoor entertainment was taking place and spoke with the owner over the phone about his concerns.
Gendron said he received complaints about two businesses, but the owner of the other business was aggressive about installing sound-dampening measures.
“The neighbors saw a noticed difference with those changes that they did,” he said.
The council approved the license renewal on the condition that Drainville install a sound barrier and limit any outdoor entertainment until 9 p.m. Drainville said this week he doesn’t know what a sound barrier will cost, but all costs are important as restaurants recover from the pandemic.
“It’s been very difficult for a lot of businesses, particularly for mine that got started at a very difficult time,” he said. “All costs are important. Ones that are imposed in a seemingly arbitrary fashion certainly are not welcomed.”
Black opened its doors last January, shortly before the start of the pandemic. The restaurant reopened last September, and Drainville unveiled significant upgrades to its outdoor space in the spring, attracting customers for outdoor dining and entertainment.
“It’s been received really well,” he said.
Several councilors also had a problem with the stipulations. Councilor Denise Sierra, who previously ran the Burrito Company, said she didn’t think it was fair for the city to impose restrictions on one business owner when two other restaurants, Ciro’s Tavern and Kay’s, also applied for license renewals for outdoor entertainment. The restaurant has also ended its outdoor entertainment in the past prior to 9 p.m.
“It appears to me like we’re picking on a business, especially when there’s multiple businesses that have outdoor entertainment in many populated areas,” she said.
Councilor Valerie Gonzalez shared similar concerns, saying she agreed the city should not impose restrictions on one business.
The measure passed by a 4-3 vote, with Sierra, Gonzalez and Councilor David Soucy voting against it.
Drainville said he plans to have further discussions with the city about what exactly they’re requiring at his outdoor space before moving forward.