Danville's Auburn Lounge is set to proceed with their planned events for the rest of the year, with the owners successfully appealing a previous town decision to deny the necessary permits amid complaints about amplified music at the downtown bar that they contended were actually part of a pattern of harassment by neighboring business.
Auburn Lounge owner Michelle Collopy appeared at the Danville Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday along with a slew of staff and customers who voiced support for the Auburn Lounge's live music offerings and decried an earlier administrative decision by the town that denied land-use permit applications for recent and upcoming events.
Commissioners voted unanimously at the end of the meeting to uphold the appeal from Marc and Michelle Collopy, and to direct the town to consider future use permit applications from the Auburn Lounge owners on a case-by-case basis.
The issue came to the Planning Commission when the Collopys appealed a decision by town chief of planning David Crompton on Aug. 11 to deny their applications for events on Aug. 20 and Sept. 10, with Crompton pointing to a number of complaints about amplified music at the venue and alleged violations of town policies during permitted and unpermitted events.
"The town, given the previous violations and the complaints that we had received, felt like we had no other way to go than to go ahead and deny those applications for those two events," Crompton said. He noted that although the applications were denied, the live music had been staged inside and no complaints were received.
In her presentation to the commission, Michelle Collopy noted that the events in question are part of the venue's Sunday Funday series, which was formed last May and is held at the lounge four times per year by the venue's house band, Salvage Title, who perform from 3-6 p.m. during the events.
"We are asking for four Sundays a year," Collopy said. "A total of 12 hours a year."
This time slot, she said, was meant to support neighboring businesses by drawing diners to nearby restaurants before and after the show, and shoppers to nearby retail businesses. While she pointed to widespread and mutual support between Auburn Lounge and its neighbors, she said there was one exception that she alleged was the root cause of the complaints that led to the town's denial of early permit applications.
"The largest struggle I have is with the neighbor, and nothing has been more annoying than dealing with my neighbor, Revel Kitchen, and I apologize if that offends anyone," Collopy said.
The tension between the two businesses and their respective owners, Collopy said, was something she was unaccustomed to during her time owning and operating local businesses.
"In all my years opening locations and cross marketing and celebrating and supporting neighbor successes around the us -- viewing every community as exactly that, a community -- I have never seen more destructive behavior by one location, and I've never seen a town allow this to happen to any of their businesses," she said.
"It's definitely personal, and I just want to point that out," she added.
According to Collopy and various supporters during the subsequent public comment period Auburn Lounge has long been a target of ire for the owners of neighboring Revel Kitchen, and the reason, they said, for the documented history of complaints against Auburn Lounge.
"I truly believe that we are being targeted by a neighbor as a competitor and we have no desire to compete with anyone -- we believe that their success is our success and vice versa," Collopy said.
Other members of the public described their own experiences enjoying music at the Auburn Lounge, and its role bringing them to downtown Danville to support other local businesses in the neighborhood.
"I'm touching on what many other people have touched on here on, which is we are your target for merchant sales," Bob Hammer said in a public comment. "We are 40 to 55 years old. My wife Kim and I -- our kids have gone through the system here, they're grown and gone. We have extra funds in our pockets. We like to go downtown."
John Parr, another public commenter, echoed that sentiment and emphasized the difficulties faced by small businesses hit by numerous targeted complaints.
"It's very, very difficult to run a business and to have somebody who constantly complains about music -- we have been there many times," Parr said. "My wife and I are from Walnut Creek. We also spend a lot of money in Danville."
After continued discussion in the public comment period and further discussion between commissioners and town staff, the commission voted to uphold the appeal subject to future applications for land-use permits, which were to be based on single permit applications.
While the permit applications and dates for upcoming Auburn Lounge shows remained up in the air following the meeting, Collopy said she was hoping to hold the next event in full force in October.