PORTLAND – A task force that’s researching ways to address excessively loud music in the Old Port is recommending that a standing committee serve as the mediator between bars and residents.

The Downtown Noise Task Force — made up of bar owners, musicians, residents and city officials — has also concluded that the city’s current noise limit of 55 decibels is too low to be enforceable. The group recommends that the limit be raised to 92 decibels.

The City Council will vote on the proposal later this month.

The task force believes that mediation would produce better results than hard-and-fast rules because the solutions can be quite different from venue to venue, said task force member Doug Foss, who owns Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street.

“It’s clearly business-friendly,” he said of the proposal, “but I think it’s also resident-friendly. The concern among residents is, they want to keep a vibrant downtown, too. They want a workable solution.”

Task force members walked around the Old Port on two weekend nights and took decibel readings at several venues. To let them hear what 93 decibels sounds like, task force member Bruce Mills, the owner of Amigo’s, told the band at his bar to play at that volume.

Assistant Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who serves on the task force, said the field trip was far more valuable than reading about noise standards elsewhere.

“We were human beings standing next to live music,” he said.

The task force found that nearly all of the venues had noise levels below 92 decibels.

Sauschuck said the current 55-decibel limit is unreasonable because a city bus can produce that much noise. That makes the restriction impossible to enforce, he said.

If the noise limit were 92 decibels, an officer could ask a bar owner to turn down the music. Bar owners who failed to comply could risk losing their entertainment licenses. The task force found that most complaints about noise were generally focused on a few establishments.

For those that generate a lot of complaints, a standing city committee would work with the owners to find ways to lower noise levels, such as adding soundproofing materials.

The Sound Oversight Committee would be composed of a police officer, a city employee, a downtown resident and someone who has an entertainment license. The police officer would chair the meetings.

The committee could also propose conditions on entertainment licenses.

Elizabeth Humstone, a task force member who lives downtown, said the proposal is a good one for residents.

“Working with individual businesses to address issues makes a lot of sense,” she said.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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