Noise-related campaign in Steamboat draws attention

"Keep Steamboat Cool” effort draws rebukes; bar owner says intent is to raise awareness


How loud is loud?

On the decibel scale, which is logarithmic, an increase of 10 means that a sound is 10 times more intense and sounds twice as loud. The humming of a refrigerator is about 45 decibels, normal conversation is about 60 decibels and heavy city traffic can reach 85 decibels. Motorcycles, firecrackers and small firearms can reach 120 to 150 decibels.

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders, online at

Nighttime decibel levels

Location, Allowable nighttime noise (in decibels)*

Steamboat Springs, 55

Denver’s LoDo District, 60

Aspen, 60

Vail, 60

San Diego, downtown, 60

Washington, downtown, 60

Park City, Utah, 65

Austin, Texas, commercial/recreation districts, 70

Different cities set different hours for nighttime noise regulations. In Steamboat Springs, the nighttime noise limit of 55 decibels applies from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Source: Steamboat Springs Department of Planning and Community Development

— A promotional campaign alleging that future city noise regulations could “put an end to indoor and outdoor entertainment in Steamboat” turned up the volume on a downtown debate Wednesday.

But city officials said potential revisions to the law actually could increase the level of allowable nighttime noise.

The Ghost Ranch Saloon adver­tised “Keep Steam­boat Cool” on its Twitter feed Tues­day night, providing a link to a Face­book page with a printable flier that says new noise regulations would set a limit of 60 decibels, lead to liquor license revocations for repeated violations and end “all outdoor dining in Steamboat.”

“It concerns me greatly that basically every entertainment or outdoor dining facility in Steam­boat will be in violation of a 60-decibel ordinance pretty much 24 hours a day,” Ghost Ranch co-owner Amy Garris said Wed­nesday. “Sixty decibels is not very loud.”

Sixty decibels is about as loud as normal conversation. It’s the allowable nighttime noise level in Aspen, Vail and Denver’s LoDo district. It’s also five decibels louder than Steamboat Springs’ current nighttime noise limit of 55 decibels.

Tyler Gibbs, city planning and community development director, said Wednesday that the Keep Steamboat Cool flier is “jumping to a lot of assumptions that are inaccurate.” He said no revisions to the noise ordinance have been drafted, no set decibel level has been determined and no time frame is set for the public process of proposed changes.

“It certainly has no intention of ending live music in Steam­boat. Absolutely not,” Gibbs said about a potential revised ordinance. “There is absolutely no intention of trying to put anybody out of business. … Putting these fliers out here is kind of jump-starting the conversation without having all the information on the table, unfortunately.”

Gibbs said proposed revisions likely would recommend increasing allowable nighttime noise.

“Probably our existing ordinance is a little low for the downtown context,” he said.

Ghost Ranch, a downtown bar and music venue on Seventh Street, has been central to downtown noise debates that intensified in summer and stretched into fall.

Garris said in November that Ghost Ranch spent an “absolute fortune in legal fees” contesting a July citation for alleged violation of a city noise ordinance. The citation followed a call from a Howelsen Place resident during a concert at the Ghost Ranch.

Howelsen Place is a commercial and residential development across Seventh Street from Ghost Ranch. Mark Scully, managing director of Howelsen Place developers Green Courte Partners, said the Keep Steam­boat Cool flier contains “dramatic misstatements of fact,” including an allegation that Green Courte “coerced” the Steamboat Springs City Council to tighten noise regulations with threats of a lawsuit. Scully called lawsuit allegations untrue and said he’s looking for cooperation, not conflict.

“We are fully supportive of keeping Steamboat cool,” he said, referring to the sentiment, not the Facebook campaign. “All I’m asking Ghost Ranch to do is the same thing every other bar in Steamboat does, and that’s be a good neighbor.”

‘We need nightlife’

Gibbs said his department has been examining city noise ordinances across the country while working to prepare proposed revisions for Steamboat.

Councilman Jon Quinn said that those revisions could come before the council in late April after a Steamboat Springs Plan­ning Commission meeting.

Garris said Keep Steamboat Cool is an effort to spur attendance at those meetings.

“The idea is that we get the public involved in this process,” she said. “This is an ordinance that would likely shut down a lot of businesses if it passes.”

Quinn refuted that notion.

“We need nightlife — we absolutely need a robust and thriving nightlife scene,” Quinn said. “I’m not at all interested in closing down bars or restricting the kind of music they can play. That’s all absolute nonsense.”

Garris said business associates of hers created the Keep Steam­boat Cool campaign.

Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steam­boat Springs, said she learned about it Wed­nesday, after being told that Main­street appeared on the campaign’s Face­book page. Because Keep Steam­boat Cool “liked” Main­street, a Face­­book indicator of approval, her group appears on the Keep Steam­boat Cool page.

“They liked me rather than me liking them. There’s no way I can get them to unlike me,” Barnett said. “It makes me look like I’m supporting what they’re saying, and that actually upsets me because I don’t think any of the things I’ve seen on that website are based in fact.”

–To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail


Leslie Faulkner 6 years, 2 months ago

when i pay to see a show i want the sound system to be great and the music to be loud. it doesn't matter if it's rock or classical. in a down economy, this business owner has spent way too much to correct and fight the problem. she may have made some assumptions before doing all her homework but she seems to be exaggerating to make a point: steamboat needs a hip factor and if you buy property anywhere else in the country in a downtown area, you ACCEPT the ambiance of street life which may include early morning delivery trucks, loud music and even drunks stumbling around at times. the convenience of a coffee-bakery literally at your doorstep goes hand in hand with a vibrant nightlife. maybe real estate Downtown needs to be marketed like every other downtown anywhere else: it's cool, it's convenient and at times noisy. If a potential buyer is looking for a quiet, family or retirement-type property, the inventory in Steamboat is endless. I say keep Downtown cool and keep the dial turned up.


beentheredonethat 6 years, 2 months ago

the louder the music downtown, the more excitement and business that can be generated. turn up the noise, turn up the funk!


greenwash 6 years, 2 months ago

How about a Flash Mob Saturday Night - Midnight in front of Ghost Ranch ? Could be fun.


Chad Fleischer 6 years, 2 months ago

Are there specific instances of where a meter was used to monitor levels above the 55 decibals allowed? Is there a reason we are not currently the same as other major ski areas? I have been to Apsen many times for concerts and Vail as well and in Vail they have concerts more or less on bridge street above all the downtown condos. I imagine the folks above the street are paying 2,000 plus per night. I know the Powder Room was run off from noise complaints and because the type of music wasn't what the Torain residents would like to hear. Lets make it 60 as a town code and if someone calls because of it and it isn't above 60 fine them $500 and if it is above that fine the bar $1500.
How many nights and how many concerts are too loud anyway? 3, 5 I doubt there are that many nights when the music is too loud. We have a free concert series for crying out loud and I can hear the music at the ski area from downtown.
You cannot control loud talkers, smokers or trucks through dowtown so I think we should keep the focus on the fact that we need to bump it up 5 decibals and then hold those that do not adhere to the law accountable while fining those that complain about noise when it is not above the standard. We all live here so lets work together.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 2 months ago

Issue for Ghost Ranch is that 60 decibels is not that loud. A passing car could make more noise than that. And they already have fought one noise violation.

So if new city standard is going to be 60 decibels and they plan on enforcing 60 decibels then Amy Garris is absolutely correct that it would effectively ruin her and other downtown businesses.

It does not matter what decibels levels are on the books in other cities, it matters at what point they enforce them.


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