Innkeepers say Weirs Beach music venue not abiding by terms of permit

LACONIA — The Planning Board deferred a decision on the request of Jay and Anthony Santagate, owners of the Tower Hill Tavern at Weirs Beach, to extend the hours of live music until 1 a.m. after nearby innkeepers said that the venue has not complied with the terms the board placed on its original approval.

In February, after more than two years of controversy, the board approved the Santagates' plan to provide a bar, stage and dance floor on the second floor where live bands would perform for up to 320 people. But, the board stipulated that no noise be "distinctly audible" more than 50 feet from the property line. Moreover, at Santagate's suggestion, the board stipulated that bands would play only until 11 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day and until 10 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

Attorney Regina Nadeau, representing Robert and Michael Ames of Half Moon Cottages, stressed that "my clients have no intention of stopping the Santagates from having a night club, but they do want to protect their business and those of others." She claimed that at least nine patrons of the cottages have complained of the noise while some have checked out and others given refunds. "There has been a calculable amount of lost business," she said.

"We don't want to stop their business," Nadeau repeated, "but, they're not complying with the current rules." She urged the board to deny the application to extend the hours and instead conduct "a compliance review," including reconsideration of the insulation installed at the venue.

"It's not like we're against his business," Mike Ames remarked, "but we're asking him to do what it takes to be a good neighbor."

Joe Driscoll of the Cozy Inn and Lakeview House and Cottages, also insisted he was not seeking to stifle the Santagates' business. "We want good entertainment," he said. "But, when everything else is getting quieter, his is getting louder." Driscoll described the issue as one of property rights, noting that "I keep my business on my property and I expect others to do the same."

Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that the police, who enforce the noise regulations, told her that they had responded to only a couple of complaints pertaining to the Tower Hill Tavern.

Warren Huitchins, chairman of the board, suggested that before addressing Santagate's request "we need to resolve the differences of opinion about compliance with the existing regulations."

The board will return to the issue at its meeting in September, when Saunders said it will have another month of experience and the police can offer their perspective.