Linda Moles steps outside the Ship Ahoy Tavern on SE Gladstone and 29th—a few blocks south of Powell—to prove a point. Her mother owns the cozy, longtime neighborhood bar, and inside, patrons are watching Monday Night Football. It's a little too loud for an interview inside. However, out on the sidewalk—just outside the bar's front door—the bar's noise is imperceptible.
That's why Moles says, "I truly don't understand" why one neighbor has made multiple calls to the city's Noise Control Program, complaining about the bar. The person "must have bionic ears," Moles says, or is hearing noise from another source and misattributing it to Ship Ahoy.
The person that neighbors believe is the anonymous complainant sent a note to the Creston- Kenilworth Neighborhood Association email list on August 30, the same day the city received a noise complaint about the bar specifying "amplified bass coming from Ship Ahoy Tavern creat[ing] extreme vibration during the day and night."
"I believe the tavern may be in violation of the law," the neighbor wrote.
Prompted by the neighbor's complaints, the city has come out twice to check the tavern's noise levels (including once with the jukebox turned up by a technician, to a volume louder than the tavern's bartender is able to crank it). Both times the bar's noise level were within legal limits. Ship Ahoy's sound system "settings are well under those required for compliance," according to the inspector's notes. "Case closed based on these findings."
The noise control officer also checked the volume at C-Bar, across the street from the tavern—their noise didn't register, either, say C-Bar's owner, James Land.
"We turned the music a quarter turn past where it always is, and [the noise inspector] couldn't get a reading," says Land, who lives upstairs from his bar. "He was as perplexed as we are."
On September 21, Land updated the neighborhood association on the noise complaint saga: "In spite of all of this effort, following the last round of decibel tests the same person has lodged three to four more complaints with the city. [This has prompted] the city to offer a written letter to both bars stating that we have both been thoroughly tested and have been found to be in compliance with the law," he wrote.
The neighbor spoke up again via email to the neighborhood association on September 23, saying she's not trying "to close [Ship Ahoy] down." But she does believe that "the City of Portland does not have effective noise regulation." She did not reply to an email from the Mercury.
Both the Ship Ahoy and the C-Bar say they want to be good neighbors. But now, they're worried the neighbor will take her case to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). On Tuesday, September 26, an OLCC spokesperson said the agency did receive a noise complaint about Ship Ahoy "from a neighbor" on September 6. The complaint was found to be unproven.