Alfresco dining has grown in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, and some local restaurants have begun offering live or recorded alfresco music to attract and entertain diners.
But when it comes to music, complaints often arise. Now, just a month after two residents complained at a recent village council meeting about loud music coming from Mary’s Morning Mix-Up, a restaurant at 9110 Broadway Ave. in Brookfield, the village of Brookfield has purchased a noise meter and is considering introducing a decibel-specific noise ordinance to curb complaints.
In June, Mary’s Morning Mix-Up obtained a liquor license and began an outdoor music series Wednesday through Sunday nights on its new patio. The frequency of these offers has since been restricted in response to some complaints.
“While it was largely enjoyed by its guests, this increased form of entertainment has created an unwanted disturbance for some, particularly nearby residents,” Brookfield Police Chief Mark Kuruvilla told the Brookfield Village Board July 25 Committee of the entire meeting.
On August 5, while a mariachi band was performing on the outdoor patio, a Brookfield police officer stopped at Mary’s Morning Mix-Up with a new monitor the village had just purchased and took decibel readings from the sidewalk of Broadway Avenue nearby the business.
Village leader Tim Wiberg said the village is trying to get basic readings of current noise levels before deciding what kind of decibel limits to propose.
“We don’t want to create limits that are already being exceeded, so we make sure we set sensible decibel limits in the regulation and then go from there,” Wiberg said.
Wiberg and Kuruvilla told the village head that the existing village noise regulation ordinances were difficult to enforce because they were too vague.
“There’s nothing enforceable, so we’re not enforcing it,” Wiberg said.
Kuruvilla said an effective noise regulation would reference specific decibel levels not to be exceeded and would apply to amplified music.
“It has to be accurate if we’re going to create a noise ordinance that can be regulated by the police department,” Kuruvilla said. “Vague and overly interpretive legislative language raises constitutional concerns about First Amendment freedom of speech.”
Kuruvilla’s memo to the local council contained summaries of the Elmhurst, Naperville, West Chicago and Lincolnwood noise ordinances, which had specific maximum decibel levels depending on the time of day and zoning.
Wiberg said if a decibel-specific noise ordinance is enacted, village events like Music on Grand and carnivals would be exempt.
That doesn’t sit well with Mary Vasquez, the owner of Mary’s Mix-Up, who told the Landmark she sometimes feels her place has been singled out.
“It just feels unfair,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said her place isn’t the only place in Brookfield that has music playing outdoors.
“There’s music in the parks, there’s music at the Brookfield Zoo, the village closes Grand, there’s music there. I just feel why now? Why now all of a sudden?” said Vasquez, who lives in Brookfield. “What’s good for me should be good for everyone.”
Vasquez said if she has music, it only lasts a few hours and ends at 10 p.m. or earlier.
“We open at 5 and the music starts at 7-9. Nine o’clock has been like the latest we’re done lately,” Vasquez said. “It’s summer, it’s been a few months and we’re taking a few breaks within the two hours they play music.”
Wiberg said if such a decibel-specific noise regulation were enacted, it would be enforced with caution.
“You don’t use it every day, you only use it in extreme cases,” Wiberg said. “Our police are very good and very sensitive about knowing when to use an infraction and when not to, but what they do gives you an objective standard when you need it.”
In response to complaints, Vasquez has already drastically reduced the number of nights she offers outdoor music.
“All I wanted was to bring something different to Brookfield,” Vasquez said, “to have a place for people to go with their families.”
Village board members seem interested in considering a decibel-specific noise ordinance.
“It’s a good start,” Jennifer Hendricks, a village board member, said last month, adding that she would like to see construction noise and noise from landscape maintenance services addressed as well.