Owners of Goat Island Restaurant and Lounge have sued Clarendon County and are awaiting a hearing that will determine whether the county’s noise ordinance is unconstitutional, after a local judge issued a temporary injunction on June 29 that prevents county deputies from enforcing the ordinance at the business.
Owners John and Tammy Johndrow filed a lawsuit shortly after Memorial Day weekend, when according to Tammy Johndrow, the Sheriff’s Department had called and requested that they not play music after 10 p.m., or that she would be in violation of the noise ordinance. The Sheriff’s Department came out to the restaurant 24 times in the summer of 2010 due to calls about loud music, according to Johndrow’s affidavit. Sheriff Randy Garrett said that he could not comment on the matter until it is resolved in court, but that the department does respond to every call.
The residents who’ve issued noise complaints about the music from the restaurant say that all they want is peace and a chance to be able to sleep, without being disturbed in the middle of the night by the outdoor music, which the restaurant plays from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. on Fridays, and from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. on Saturdays.
“The Sheriff’s Department has been called continuously because that has been our only avenue to ask them to turn the music down,” said Jan Sharpe, a resident of Goat Island. “We don’t object to them having a successful business, but Goat Island is not just about Goat Island Restaurant and Lounge.”
John Johndrow said that the ordinance is not specific enough.
“I want to know what I’m in violation of,” he said. “If there was a noise dosimeter level in the ordinance, I would abide by it.”
The Johndrows said that they have been playing music outdoors since they bought the restaurant in 2000, and built a deck outside a year later. On special events, such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day, they said that they set up flatbed trailers with music outside. They said that because they are located in a rural area on the lake, that outdoor entertainment is their major source of attraction to their restaurant during the summer months.
Resident JoAnne McKenzie, who lives about four houses behind the restaurant, said that many of the residents of Goat Island are senior citizens, and have trouble sleeping when the music is played.
“They’re depriving us of our peace and quiet,” McKenzie said.
Resident Albert Galbreath, who lives right behind the restaurant, said that he has no problem with the music when it is kept inside, however he is disturbed by it being outside.
However, not all residents agree that the music is a disturbance.
J.P. Malone, who lives about three houses down from the restaurant said that the music is not a nuisance to him.
“I knew what it was when I moved down here, a bar and a restaurant,” he said. “I hear it sometimes but it doesn’t bother me.”
Dale Beck, who lives one house behind the restaurant, said that the outdoor music has never bothered her.
“It’s got to pass me before it goes to other people,” she said.
County Attorney David W. Epperson said that Judge George C. James, Jr., of the Third Judicial District Court, which includes Clarendon, Lee, Sumter and Williamsburg Counties, indicated that a hearing should be set as soon as possible to determine whether or not the ordinance is unconstitutional, until then a temporary injunction, preventing the Sheriff’s Department from enforcing the county noise ordinance at the restaurant is in effect. When issuing the injunction, James had said that the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad because it “used language that fails to give sufficient notice as to what constitutes a violation,” and would also hurt the economic interests of the restaurant.