Musicians say the city is moving in the right direction by revising what they call an antiquated city ordinance. But some say the proposal still doesn’t go far enough to give entertainers artistic freedom.
City Council members will consider an ordinance Tuesday that would make it less expensive for coffee shops, art galleries, music stores and music venues that don’t serve alcohol to get an entertainment license. It also goes further to define such places.
But Kathy Roush Major and Adam Hartke, who have followed the ordinance closely, say it still needs work, even after last-minute changes.
“I don’t think music should be regulated outside of noise ordinances,” said Hartke, operations and promotions manager at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Wichita and a local events promoter.
Nonetheless, Hartke said he understands the city’s stance.
“We’re still searching for the best way to approach it while still retaining a regulatory tool that they need,” Hartke said Friday.
Wichita Police Deputy Chief Tom Stolz, who has been working with groups to draft revisions to the ordinance, said he considers the changes a first step.
“I think we’re going to roll with this,” Stolz said Friday. “It’s by no means a finished product. I think we recognize that the culture of the city is changing a little bit and laws need to change with that. I don’t expect that the city is going to stay stagnant in the future.”
Wichita’s rules on entertainment licenses are being weighed because of concerns by some that venues that don’t serve alcohol shouldn’t be held to the same standard as those that do.
Two years ago, the city abolished licensing for dance halls and cabarets in favor of a single entertainment license. That caught some businesses in a regulatory net. Naked City art gallery, for example, got into trouble for serving alcohol at an art show. The owner, whom police arrested, didn’t realize she needed an entertainment license.
Major said she and her husband, Clif Major, closed their C. Major’s Rockin’ Daddy’s because of licensing issues. They now play and teach music in the "Uptown Conservatory of Music at Clif and Kathy’s Abode" — the great room of their home.
“Though these changes have enhanced public safety in the community,” a memo to council members says, “the entertainment license has placed a burden on ‘non-club’ entities such as art galleries and coffee shops (that) generally want to promote live entertainment in a non-club environment.”
The ordinance lowers the price of an annual entertainment license from $400 to $50 for coffee shops, art galleries and music stores and music venues that don’t serve alcohol.
An earlier revision of the ordinance wouldn’t have allowed such places to have any music until noon. Roush Major, who teaches music, pushed for the ordinance to make an exception for music student recitals, music lessons or closed recording sessions. Under the proposed ordinance, venues would be able to have those kind of events before noon, but they still have to be closed between 2:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Hartke said in an e-mail to the city that “there have been many instances of music being played in a coffee shop before noon. Would it be feasible to say that music is only permitted between the hours of 2 a.m. and noon if the music is inaudible from any portion of the exterior of the premises?”
The proposed changes call for art galleries to have a legal capacity of not more than 200 people and coffee shops and music-only venues to have a legal capacity of 100. It also says that galleries will not be licensed to sell alcoholic beverages on a permanent basis.
Hartke expressed concern about capacity restrictions.
“There are many art galleries such as the Diver (Studio) and the Fisch Haus that come near to or exceed a maximum capacity of 200,” he wrote in his e-mail. “The capacity of an art gallery does not directly correlate with revenue generation, therefore regulations set forth inclusive of potential fees based on capacity restrictions would deter gallery owners from opening larger art galleries of which, in my opinion, should be encouraged.”
And, he said, “there are coffee shops such as Mead’s Corner that regularly host live music, have a capacity over 100 and would benefit greatly from being included in this description.”