Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Good soundbreaks make . . . Hotel vs. Club

Published in the Portland Phoenix

After being neighbors for more than five years, the Portland Regency Hotel, owned by Eric Cianchette, has sued the Alehouse, a tenant in another one of Cianchette’s buildings, saying the club generates too much noise and disturbs hotel guests.

Cianchette said the noise generated by the Alehouse, a space once owned by Cianchette and operated as "Eric's," is "affecting a lot of [hotel] customers," but said "I don’t know much about" the lawsuit.

The hotel’s general manager, Jill Hugger, didn’t know anything about the suit, though she said noise from the Alehouse has been a problem for a long time. She said the hotel has to give people free overnight stays "a lot" due to the Alehouse’s noise, but would not be specific about how often or how much money was involved.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, is similar to one filed by Cianchette's company, ELC, in 2001, to stop the Alehouse from holding any live-music performances. A judge then found in favor of the Alehouse, a ruling that was upheld on appeal. The recent suit does not include any specific dates or times of noise problems, though a filing by Alehouse owner Russ Riseman claims he has received only two complaints about noise from the hotelone in the summer of 2005 and another in the fall, and none from other neighbors.

Gerald May of Perkins Olson, the lawyer representing the hotel, said he had "no comment" and hung up the phone when asked whether the suit would be dropped because of the Alehouse’s recent steps to lower the noise level.

On the very day the suit was filed, Riseman was arranging the installation of $2000 worth of soundproofing material and for sound engineers to hourly test the noise level outside the door of the Alehouse and at the front door of the Regency, in response to a complaint from the hotel, he said.

Filings on Riseman’s behalf claim that the sound engineers’ readings are now at or below the city’s legal limit of 58 decibels, about the level of a normal conversation. "We have meetings with the Regency every single night," Riseman said, illustrating his efforts to solve the problem.

Some of the noise may be due to customers who leave the Alehouse to smoke and converse outside, but he said there's nothing he can do about that because he can't allow smoking inside and the customers have the right to smoke on public sidewalks.

Riseman said he feels that Cianchette wants the Alehouse to move, and said "I'll go willingly" to another place if one is affordable. But, until then, he's going to fight, heartened by his success in 2001. "If we lose, we're going to lose because I can't afford the litigation," said Riseman, who added that he is getting a discounted legal rate from local lawyer Dan Skolnik—"but it's not free."