Bend venue halts concerts amid noise rules flap

Musicians express concern; city plans review in new year

Century Center nixes concerts, worries other venues, musicia

BEND, Ore. - This summer, Brian Hinderberger and his band The Rum and the Sea played at the Riverside Market in West Bend.

It would have been like any other show, except it was scheduled in the middle of controversy.

The city's revised noise ordinance says nothing over 80 decibels is allowed after 10 p.m.

Bend police recently acquired decibel meters, so before this fall, it was up to the ears of the responding officer whether a ticket was written.

That threat of noise violations made bar owners nervous.

"Only the people 10 feet in front of us could hear us," Hinderberger said. "The kids were louder than we were."

Now one of the city's largest concert venues, the Century Center, is pulling the plug on concerts and turning it into a leased retail space.

And Hinderberger is worried about a domino effect.

"Other venue owners are scared and considering doing the same, and it's really jeopardizing small businesses like the Horned Hand and Midtown," Hinderberger said Friday.

The Horned Hand is Westside bar, art gallery and music venue, and owner Wesley Ladd says he doesn't have a problem with the ordinance -- he helped write it -- but can't yet get behind how it's being enforced.

"It's the interpretation of it, and the abuse of it by a very few malicious people who are trying to shut down anything and everything this town stands for," Ladd said.

Now musicians are fighting to keep live music in the area, something the city wants as well.

"The cultural aspect of these events is vital to Bend's economy," said Bend Mayor Jeff Eager, who steps down in early January as new councilors take office.  "And one of the things that we on council prioritize is, let's make this work for business."

Still, Hinderberger worries if changes aren't made it could be the end of music on the west side.

"Just because a venue is pulled away doesn't mean the music's going to go away," Hinderberger said.  "It will never go away. What's going to end up happening is it's going to go somewhere else, and I would like it to stay here in Bend."

But he's optimistic that come January, when the city council revisits the issue, a compromise will be made.

And that Bend's Westside will stay vibrant.

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