Ghost Ranch Saloon is across the street from the high-end Howelsen Place condos. Police have gotten several calls from neighbors concerned about late-night noise.

Photo by John F. Russell

Ghost Ranch Saloon is across the street from the high-end Howelsen Place condos. Police have gotten several calls from neighbors concerned about late-night noise.

Steamboat police, Mainstreet work to resolve nighttime noise conflicts



Police have gotten several calls from neighbors concerned about late-night noise from Ghost Ranch Saloon.

What the code says

Steamboat Springs’ municipal code includes, under “Article II, general offenses,” this ordinance about noise disturbances:

Sec. 10-55. Disturbing quiet enjoyment of home.

(a) No person shall recklessly engage in, or be responsible for, conduct which is so loud that it materially interferes with or disrupts another individual in the conduct of lawful activities at such individual’s home. Whether or not noise is “so loud that it materially interferes with or disrupts” shall be measured against the objective standard or a reasonable person of normal sensitivity.

(b) This section shall not apply to special events as authorized by this Code including, but not limited to, the Winter Carnival, summer rodeo, 4th of July fireworks, outdoor concerts, vintage auto and motorcycle races, softball and other sports tournaments, football games and other school athletic events or activities.

Source: City of Steamboat Springs

— On July 23, a Friday, Ghost Ranch Saloon owner Amy Garris was glad to see crowds thronging downtown Steamboat Springs after a free concert that drew thousands to Howelsen Hill.

“It was just a ridiculously busy night,” she said last week. “It was one of the first busy nights we’ve had all summer — we were feeling good about it.”

Ghost Ranch hosted a concert of its own that Friday. As the evening turned into night, the Seventh Street bar and music venue quickly became packed.

The phone call came at 10:53 p.m. A resident at Howelsen Place, directly across the street, had called in a noise complaint. It wasn’t the first such complaint — Steamboat Springs Police Department officers had issued a warning to Ghost Ranch the night before.

This time, officers issued a citation.

“The Ghost Ranch was cited under the disturbing the quiet enjoyment of the home ordinance,” Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said.

The citation means a mandatory court appearance for Ghost Ranch. Rae said the date is Sept. 1 in Steamboat Springs municipal court. Fines for municipal code violations can reach $999, he said.

But Rae said the court hearing could focus less on the fine than the larger picture.

“I would suspect that they would be looking at something more along the lines of what we can do to mediate and fix the problem,” he said.

Because there’s no doubt, according to Rae, Police Chief JD Hays and Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, that problems are intensifying between downtown’s nighttime businesses and downtown residents who live blocks, or yards, away from revelry that can extend later than 1 a.m. It’s not the first time homeowners’ concerns about nighttime noise have contrasted with business owners’ efforts in Steamboat Springs — recent years saw disputes between Torian Plum homeowners and bars at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. But some of those bars, such as Lupo’s and Levelz, were demolished along with much of Ski Time Square in sum­mer 2008.

That demolition shifted some of the city’s nightlife downtown, where a revitalization of a different sort was occurring with the construction of developments including Howelsen Place and Alpen Glow, offering upscale residential units in the heart of Lincoln Avenue.

But as the addition of venues, in­­cluding Ghost Ranch, The Boat­house Pub and Sweet­­wa­­ter Grill, escalates downtown’s nightlife, some homebuyers attracted to the vibrancy of downtown appear to be realizing their limits for tolerating that vibrancy, especially in the late hours.

“We definitely need to do something in our downtown,” Hays told the Steamboat Springs City Council last month. “We’re constantly getting complaints about ‘the noise is too loud in the bar.’”

The City Council reaffirmed its allocation of $2,000 to bring the Responsibility Hospitality Institute, which mediates and mitigates such issues, to Steam­boat for a seminar, likely on Sept. 16. Mark Scully, of Green Courte Partners, the developers of Howelsen Place and Alpen Glow, is contributing $1,500. Rae, Hays and Barnett attended a Denver forum hosted by the institute in June and came away with positive reviews of a community-oriented approach that brings all stakeholders to the table.

“Law enforcement is not going to solve the problem. … The community has to come together and come up with solutions,” Hays said. “We’re at a point now where everybody is upset with each other, and we’re not making any progress.”

More than noise

A Howelsen Place homeowner who has called in noise complaints related to downtown bars could not be reached for this story. Rae said that although “the majority of the complaints have been in the vicinity of Seventh Street,” noise problems occur all across the city.

“We get noise complaints nightly, whether that’s from a barking dog or a bar having their music too loud. Literally, there’s hundreds of complaints a year,” he said. “More of those complaints come from the barking dogs and parties … but we have been getting some pretty consistent complaints downtown about nightlife issues.

“I think it’s picked up downtown due to the fact that our downtown has changed in the past couple years. Noise complaints downtown have definitely increased in the past year and a half.”

Scully said Howelsen Place has sold 10 of its 42 units and Alpen Glow has sold three of its 14. He’s been involved in conversations about nighttime noise, as well, and said solutions can include staggering when bars close, so crowds from multiple places aren’t all outside at the same time late at night.

“Ghost Ranch did a great job of moving their smoking area to a rooftop deck … that helped abate the noise,” Scully added. “That’s the kind of creative partnership that can work in downtown Steamboat.”

Rae added that soundproof windows, noise deflection and absorption materials, and “double-entrance doors” — meaning a vestibule set-up like the one at The Tugboat Grill & Pub at the ski base — also help reduce noise.

Garris said Ghost Ranch did a great deal of that work on the front end.

“During construction, we spent a lot of money insulating and soundproofing the building to avoid this sort of thing,” she said about noise complaints.

Ghost Ranch also provides a free 13-person shuttle from Wednesday to Sunday nights, she said, to take customers home and help reduce noise in front of the bar as quickly as possible.

Garris noted that Ghost Ranch hasn’t been found to be in violation of the city’s decibel limits, which Rae said are difficult to measure given the swirl of noises, bar-related and not, downtown at any given time.

Rae said that under the city’s disturbance of quiet enjoyment ordinance, which is part of the city’s municipal code, “anybody’s peace can be disturbed at any time.” Doesn’t matter if it’s 9 a.m. or 10:53 p.m., Rae said. According to the ordinance, whether a person’s enjoyment of their home is being disturbed or interfered with “shall be measured against the objective standard or a reasonable person of normal sensitivity.”

Garris called that ordinance “subjective” and added that other noise-reduction steps Ghost Ranch has taken, such as trying to keep windows and doors closed and asking bands to let Ghost Ranch use its house sound engineer, have reached the point where they’re “hurting the way that we have to do business.”

Scully expressed hope that the conversation fueled by the Responsible Hospitality Insti­­tute seminar would be constructive and take into account the entire picture of downtown.

“It really isn’t just about noise,” Scully said. “It really is kind of general behavior and general approach to creating a vibrant downtown that’s hospitable to both.

“This can be done, with not a lot of money, just a lot of communication and forethought.”

Rae acknowledged that concessions have to come from downtown homeowners, too.

“If you buy a condo or rent a house within two blocks of five bars that are trying to sustain themselves … it’s just a different level of privacy and noise level expectations that a reasonable person would have in that environment,” Rae said.


beentheredonethat 6 years, 8 months ago

smart people making stupid decisions. some decide to move into uninhabited areas and then complain about wildlife, others move into the city center and complain about people making noise. ignore them all.


Dennis O'Connor 6 years, 8 months ago

If you buy a house in a new subdivision built next to a pig farm, do you have the right to complain about the smell?


Amy Harris 6 years, 8 months ago

A "reasonable person" should expect noise from a nightclub/bar located directly across the street from his or her home.


Chad Fleischer 6 years, 8 months ago

I would start by closing your windows in your new loft and then I would recommend checking to see if your new loft happened to be located adjacent to a bar. I also think the music seems a lot louder after the drop in units value...Ouch my ears hurt too!


housepoor 6 years, 8 months ago

com'on you moved into a commercial area, next you'll be calling to complain about the fumes from the delivery truck idling under your window. I always thought it odd that someone would want to live above retail downtown in Steamboat when there are so many more attractive options. Maybe if you're a bartender getting off work at 2:30 am.


John Fielding 6 years, 8 months ago


It is 8 AM Sunday and I can already hear the crack of the bat and the cheers of the crowds over at the Howelsen ball-fields. The rodeo announcer came through quite clearly last night too.

Funny thing, I learned to sleep through the coal trains noise the first year I moved here, but I still wake easily for the sound of a child coughing or going to the bathroom.

Someone has been playing drums in Little Toots park a few evenings a week. Someone was racing their engine and burning rubber around 1 AM up at the college last night.

The noise that disturbs me most is my own dog "Guardian Angel" barking at the bears, foxes, and drunks making animal noises as they walk back up to the college after the bars close. But that is her job, that's why we got a Great Pyrenees. Recently my wife was there in the corral to quiet the dog when a bear approached. Angel's barking was so ferocious that the bear went right up a tree, leaving Holly stuck there for a half hour in her PJs waiting for it to leave.

I just step out onto the balcony and say "good girl, quiet now", that usually works if the predator has left already. That doesn't work with the drunks though, but they do not linger.

I did not know when I bought this property that it would be quite so noisy, but I do not think that I have a legitimate basis for complaining. It seems a reasonable person would expect all of this if they gave it enough forethought.

I simply accept it as the character of this place, can't change it, might as well embrace it.



cara marrs 6 years, 8 months ago

Agreed with all above: There are numerous advantages of living right in downtown like easy access to trails, restaurants, markets, concerts and the river to name a few, but there are always some negatives to every location that you decide to purchase, this is the one for that spot. You can't have it both ways, we should all be happy that downtown is vibrant and bustling, these are bars with live music, thats what those types of establishments do.


blue_spruce 6 years, 8 months ago

"...some homebuyers attracted to the vibrancy of downtown appear to be realizing their limits for tolerating that vibrancy..." says it all


aichempty 6 years, 8 months ago

Hilarious. Move to the Rocky Mountains, buy a home downtown in a resort town, and then complain about people enjoying themselves. What will you want next? Government managed health care and affordable housing? How about some beetle-proof trees, a cure for cancer (oh, no wait -- we already have that -- marijuana) and peace in our time. Oh, also, let's force all the business owners to pay their pot-addled help enough to only work part time while affording a home within walking distance of work so there's more time to pursue their professions as artists.

I used to live very close to an airport runway. About 10 feet. It was over my head. It took about two nights to get used to it, which I did, because there was nobody to complain to and nothing could be done. Amazing how simple life becomes when b!+c#ing about someone else's life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is not an option.


housepoor 6 years, 8 months ago

tell them to call their realtor and ask for their $$ back


lowclasslocal 6 years, 8 months ago

How many dozens of condos and homes advertise "walk to bars" as a perk? what a shock that people who bought these condos, possibly at the peak, could be crying sour grapes so easily. I bet that the year round residents of SS enjoy the ghost ranch more than the howelson place demolition and construction.


dave reynolds 6 years, 8 months ago i recall when we bought our home we where able to have it inspected and as a family we did check out the location....just like the guy who harassed B&K Dist for doing business.hello zoned commercial....P.T. Barnum.."There is a sucker born every minute"..these noise complaints are proof...close your windows or don't these high dollar condos have A/C..or are the windows substandard get over the comment Chad..


bandmama 6 years, 8 months ago

Ok, I had to read, and reread many times before I chose to comment. These people are COMPLAINING that downtown businesses are doing well??? At 10:53 pm. Now, did any of these folks read the contract before they signed it, that may have stated where it was in Steamboat they were going to live?.(hint..LINCOLN Ave is downtown Steamboat) To live in downtown Steamboat Springs in a (I assume,as I have never seen the inside, I am a local and cant afford to live there) super cool place overlooking the scenery and activity and ski jumping, That is a wonderful life. To complain about the noise and bustle of the "city" is absurd! Instead of complaining, why not go join the fun, there had to be a reason that one chose to live THERE. I am pretty sure it wasn't because Rabbit Ears Motel was within walking distance. MAYBE Health and Rec...but I dont think so.


Kevin Nerney 6 years, 8 months ago

Noise? The hustle and bustle of the "city" isn't noise, it's money in the bank. There are many "real cities" in this country that have noise. Gunshots, police sirens, firetruck air horns, ambulance sirens, tires squealing, victims screaming, now that's "real" noise.


housepoor 6 years, 8 months ago

shouldn't the ”quiet enjoyment ordinance” be tied to zoning? or would that have taken forethought and common sense


pitpoodle 6 years, 8 months ago

It's not fair to commercial/industrial businesses to allow residential units to be build too close. It's too late for these homeowners but please, council, pay attention to where developers want to put their projects for residential use. Hello, planning commission and planning staff, commercial/industrial businesses are noisy and there will be complaints. Yeah, a little forethought and common sense would be appropriate.


mtntrekker 6 years, 8 months ago

It appears to me that Part (b) of the code shown above says it all. To me bars are part of the "the section shall not apply.....including, but not limited to....". Also, why does Ghost Ranch Saloon have to make all these changes to their building, the way they operate, etc. when Howelson Place Condos has to do nothing to thier units to mitigate the noise? It is a two way street. I agree with all of the above comments. You buy a condo advertised as "Downtown, close to everything", deal with it!


Scott Wedel 6 years, 8 months ago

housepoor, pitpoodle, these residential units are being built because living downtown is supposed to be a feature - the ability to walk to shops and bars. No commute, no having to find parking, no worries about getting home afterward and so on. Modern city planning is to encourage more residential units above commercial because of the presumed benefits.

And now these people are shocked that there is noise.

This is different than the B&K issue because that is not about normal noise from commercial operations, but about idling trucks overnight while the driver slept waiting for the warehouse to open. That is more like a truck stop than the distributorship. If Ghost Ranch routinely did 3 am sound system maintenance including sound checks then the neighbors would have reasons to complain. That would be noise that normal commercial operations does not need to generate at that time. The challenge for B&K is that the residents blame them, but the drivers don't work for them


gettingalong 6 years, 8 months ago

From another perspective: We purchased our unit at Howelsen when the GR was the Old Corner Bookstore. However, being music lovers, we were happy to see that the GR was coming in - Although there have been times when we've enjoyed the music, there have been times when our windows are closed and the music is rocking our living room. We totally get that we need to be tolerant and believe it or not - we do understand that there is noise downtown. Before buying at Howelsen, we lived at the Residences, just next door. We were sandwiched between Sunpies, the Yacht Club and the Tap House. Rarely did the music/noise levels equal that coming from the GR. We weren't the ones to call in but I do understand the complaint. Let's all work together - we want to be good neighbors and would like to see the GR keep the windows and doors closed and set volume limits for their bands. We want to see them succeed and will continue to support their efforts.


JWorsty 6 years, 8 months ago

Why is the best venue with the best music getting singled out? It seems like Howelsen Place was built with inferior materials. When I walk by and GRS has the windows closed and doors shut I can't tell if Raggae or Country is playing. Hopefully the City will stop placating to developers and second homeowners when the Municipal Court date arrives. Can you hear us!?


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