By Cathy Salustri
I have a buddy at the St. Pete Beach Police Department: Jeff. Oh, he doesn’t know who I am. No, I’m fairly certain he knows me only as “cranky complainer lady” because I exclusively speak to him when a certain local tavern wakes me up with the worst karaoke (and that’s saying something) on the planet at 2:30 in the morning. I tend to be an early riser and do not receive these talentless serenades with the humor one might expect.
Now, I can’t name the bar, because I don’t want to get my publisher sued. For the purposes of this column we’ll just call it the Left Bar, because after all the decent establishments fill up with customers or close down, this place gets what’s left.
I’m not protesting the presence of a local dive bar, because I applaud local success. I’m protesting their success waking me up in the middle of the night.
I know, I know: How old am I, anyway? What’s next, me yelling, “Hey, you kids–get off my lawn”? I’ve heard the jokes and I don’t care. I want them to turn it down.
For those of you saying, “Well, what did she expect? She lives one street off Gulf Boulevard,” let me tell you:
I expect businesses to follow the law that says you can’t have undergrads, drunk on cheap whiskey and hoping to get lucky with the way-past-her-prime exotic dancer having a slug of Jager after her shift, belting out “Brown-Eyed Girl” on the karaoke machine at 2:21 in the morning so loudly that it wakes me up. OK, I’m paraphrasing, but the beach has a noise ordinance that, according to Jeff, starts at 10. 2 a.m. isn’t just an “Oops, we forgot to turn it down,” it’s a blatant “Up yours, St. Pete Beach cops!”
I expect the police to get out there and handle it, which they do. But if they have to go back several times a week–which they do–I expect them to ticket the bar. Jeff, my new BFF, is great, and as much as I enjoy our late-night chats I’d be happy never to speak to him again. I’m quite certain I’m not exactly the high point of his day, either.
Look, it’s not like I moved to an airport and then complained about the noise. This bar breaks the law. Regularly. And, as far as I can tell all they get is a slap on the wrist every damn night.
At some point one would hope that either the Left Bar would work out that a police officer IS going to come by and MAYBE they should keep it down, or the police would say, hey, we have better things to do than tell you to turn it down every night, so how about we just issue you a massive ticket for violating current noise violations?
But that, to my knowledge, doesn’t happen. I hope that at some point the police will consider that perhaps they should consider my numerous calls to Jeff not some weird way of flirting with police dispatch but a frustrated citizen begging police to do something to protect my quality of life.
It’s the same comment residents behind the Gabber offices have about crime and litter and the same thing people downtown hear about the bands at night. What did they expect, right? Move by 49th Street and you’re going to see crime and litter. Move by a bar and you’re going to hear music.
I don’t discount that point but would like to suggest that it is within our rights to expect our neighbors to follow the law. When they don’t, we expect the police to punish them. It’s the deal we make with liberty: we all follow an agreed-upon set of rules and, within those parameters, we’re free to do what we want. Since we know that’s not always going to happen, we have penalties in place – removals of those liberties – for those who can’t operate within those rules.
So I guess I can’t fault the owners of the Left Bar, or the people throwing trash on 49th Street. They’re just fulfilling what our founding fathers said would happen: acting out the lowest common denominator of freedom. Nightly. At our expense. I fault the legal system for not taking these seemingly minor irritations seriously, for not realizing that quality of life matters just as much as sanctity of life.
The state has laws preventing felons from owning guns or pedophiles from volunteering at a daycare, the rationale being that if they committed a crime once, why give them the tools to do so again? We can’t stop people from re-offending, but why make it easier for them to do so?
But there are no penalties for those who chronically attack our quality of life. There is nothing for us to do but grouse to one another or develop as meaningful a relationship as one can have with a night dispatcher at the local police station. Of course, there are plenty of things our elected officials can do.
I suggest we start by taking away their license to serve Boone’s Farm and making it illegal to own a karaoke machine.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com or on her Facebook page, accessible through the Gabber’s Facebook page or on our web site, TheGabber.com. Unless, of course, you’re Jeff with the St. Pete Beach Police. Then you can just wait for her nightly call.