Music destroying tranquility around ferry terminal

January 30, 2014

Last summer the Cape May-Lewes Ferry began playing amplified live music outside five nights a week from approximately 5 to 8:30 p.m. For those of us living on the front row in Port Lewes the sound was deafening, as we are only a hundred or so yards from the bar area. When we bought in Port Lewes 20 years ago we were not only prepared for, but welcomed the sounds and sights of the ferry. But we didn’t sign up for loud music that destroyed our ability to enjoy evenings sitting on our deck with friends, or reading, or simply watching the sunset.

After an evening in early August when we were entertaining family members and had to retreat inside because of the music, I decided to speak to the Lewes Ferry manager about the noise level. While sympathetic, she said that the live music brought in many locals, which was profitable for the ferry. (After all, people traveling on the ferry do not come for the music and a drink.) I then went to the police station to ask whether there were any restrictions on the level of noise. It turns out that the ferry didn’t have a license for the music, so was operating without a license. A week before they live music was scheduled to end, the amplified sound blessedly ceased.

The ferry is now petitioning the Alcohol Beverage Control Commissioner requesting a variance “to permit live entertainment, external speakers and amplifiers” outdoors on the terminal patio."

We vehemently object to this intrusion into our auditory space: our deck is impossible to use for nearly four hours five days a week. This not only affects owners who use their condos, but also those who seek to make their property attractive to renters.

This is more than our personal concern. As the amplified live music draws local people to the ferry bar, other bars and restaurants in Lewes are deprived of customers. They, too, will wish to have live music, if only to compete with the ferry. And they would have a better case: after all, the cash going to the ferry primarily benefits Delaware River & Bay Authority, and not Lewes. Some months ago Dennis Forney in these pages suggested that local bars also be given permits for outdoor live music from about 5 to 9 p.m., and there is a certain logic to his recommendation. Restaurants and bars along the canal and throughout the Lewes area will have a good case that they shouldn’t be shut out of a lucrative business if the ferry is permitted to do so.

The only sure way to prevent this noisy nuisance is to reject the ferry’s request for a variance. If granted, it will immediately compromise the summer experience of the many residents and visitors to Lewes who treasure it for its quiet beauty. There is a place for the Dewey Beach scene, but it is not in Lewes.

I urge those who share our concern to contact the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner before February 8 at Carvel State Building 820 North French Street, 3rd Floor Wilmington, DE 19801; call 302-577-5222; fax 302-577-3204.

Hans Oberdiek
Constance Hungerford

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