Speakers Sound Off On Noise Waiver Request

OSWEGO, NY – At Tuesday night’s Physical Services Committee, nearly a dozen people spoke out against a local businessman’s request for a variance or permit to operate outside of the decibel limits set forth in the Noise Ordinance, in order to have live music at his open air establishment Thursday through Saturday from May – September.

Elizabeth and Robert McGrath, owners of Spencer’s Ali Tavern, 124 W. Second St., approached the committee with basically the same request they have had the past several years.

However, this year, the request was met with an orchestrated opposition as speaker after speaker came to the microphone urging the councilors to deny the request.

Some said the council shouldn’t allow commercial establishments to make more noise than is allowed under the city’s noise ordinance.

Some said the sound of the music could be heard blocks away and rattled their windows and sounded like a freight train. One called it an assault on the quality of life.

The music is great in the early evening; it is not great at one in the morning, one woman said. “It’s too late and too loud,” she added.

It’s warm in the summer and you want the windows open, another woman pointed out. “But if you have LOUD NOISE ALL THE TIME! what’s the point?” she screamed. “Are we as human beings not allowed to sleep?”

In his request, Robert McGrath said, “The variance being requested is not to exceed 86db.”

After about an hour of debate, the committee decided not to take any action on the request.

Unless the council takes action on the resolution at a later date, the McGraths will have to operate under the guidelines set forth in the ordinance.

According to committee chair Fran Enwright, the decibel level for the downtown commercial area is 65 decibels; for residential it falls to 50 after 9 O’clock but for commercial it stays the same.

If a variance is granted, the resolution states: “…if complaints are received as a result of excessive noise at the above establishment, the Oswego City Police Department, upon investigation of the complaint, shall at their discretion, be allowed to order the owner(s) or person in charge to lower the volume level or stop the live music …”


  1. I have been there and at times you can not hear the person you are with talking. It is a fairly small area and the music just reverberates off the walls. I think they could still be a success even if the music was slightly suppressed.

  2. I was at the meeting. This story has a few inaccuracies. The request was NOT the same as in the past. The new waiver request asked for a variance allowing 90 decibels from Thursday through Saturday until 2:00 a.m. This is much higher than the 65 which is currently allowed. Secondly at no time did anyone scream. The homeowner raised her voice for one statement to illustrate how distracting loud noise can be in a quiet night. Please report with care.

  3. Would the same hold true regarding police discretion when making a noise complaint for about others who hold a variance? For example, I called the police last year on the Sunday night of the Race of Champions. It was a work/school night, it was after 1 am and the races were keeping my kids up. I was told they held a variance and there was nothing that could be done. I would think if a business cannot play music on a weekend late and night because it will disturb the peace, then surely racing cars late an night on a week night also would disturb the peace.

  4. That clause I cited is included in all waivers. Who said there was nothing that could be done? If it was a police officer, perhaps you should speak with his or her supervisor …..

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