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The Plough And Stars...in Danger


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#1 Mark Evans

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Posted 29 January 2005 - 06:52 AM

Hope I have placed this alert in the correct forum...

The Plough and Stars Pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts is endanger of loosing its live music tradition started in 1966. A couple in an apartment across the avenue from "the Plough" are pushing a motion before the Cambridge City Council to end this long standing tradition. Something to do with property values, which is a real knee slapper considering that area of Mass. Ave (The Plough gives it a bit o class).

It came to my attention through the New England Bluegrass Network. I pass this along to area squeezers who may not be aware.

The Plough has live music seven nights a week with a variety of genre that is a pure delight. Their mid-week seisuin is wonderful and long standing. This venue has been an outlet for many area groups who would have otherwise not had a chance to "get their chops together" or a less than mainstream musical vision heard and enjoyed.

Cantabridgian Squeezers, the motion goes before the City Council on Wednesday!
Make a little noise!

Edited by Mark Evans, 29 January 2005 - 07:12 AM.


#2 JimLucas

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Posted 29 January 2005 - 12:25 PM

Cantabridgian Squeezers, the motion goes before the City Council on Wednesday!
Make a little noise

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Mark, can you give us the contact details for those defending the Plough & Stars? I can't be there to help, but I'd like to be sure that they've considered all the arguments I've thought of.

It should be an open-and-shut case in favor of the pub, but many a strong case has been lost by weak argument. And many a governing body has been successfully bullied by a loud and passionate minority.

I recommend that anyone who supports the Plough & Stars in spirit do their utmost to be at the Council meeting in body, as well. An attack on live music at a place with a long tradition like P&S is in fact an attack on the basic concepts of both self-made music and shared musical culture. (There are strong non-musical arguments, as well, but I think live music is one interest that everyone here shares.) If someone -- not the owner, and I would guess not even a patron -- can succeed in shutting down the music in a place like that, it would set a dangerous precedent. I suspect some of the Brits can see parallels between this and the Public Entertainment Licensing struggle in England.

It might be well to form separate groups before you enter, so that each group and its size can be easily identified in order demonstrate the extent (a cluster will always look bigger than the same number scattered) and nature of the support. I believe the relevant groupings would be:
... 1) Those who live within the Council's jurisdiction. These people should have as much right to argue their views as the petitioners. Furthermore, they are voters to whom the Council members are answerable at election time.
... 2) Those from other communities who have attended P&S musical events, either as musicians or audience, because they consider those events to be positive cultural experiences and a credit to the community. (If get the chance to mention that among their reasons for coming to P&S from other communities is the peaceful and relatively quiet -- I'm assuming the volume is not brain-homogenizing -- nature of the events, that's unlikely to hurt.)
... 3) Those who have not personally attended the P&S events, but who support and (presumably) attend similar events in other areas, and who consider such activities to be a positive influence in the community and society as a whole, and thus worth supporting outside their own community. (Someone might even want to say "positive moral influence", rather than just "positive influence", and then advance that position by contrasting the good behavior of those involved with the behavior exhibited by those involved in other activities.)

#3 John Wild

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Posted 29 January 2005 - 04:22 PM

A couple in an apartment across the avenue from "the Plough" are pushing a motion before the Cambridge City Council to end this long standing tradition. 


Was the live music tradition well established before the couple moved there? in England there was a legal ruling establisged by case law when someone complained about a noisy pub. the argument (by the late Lord Denning) was that if the pub began noisy music after they moved there and so changed the peace of the neighbourhood, they would have grounds for complaint. On the other hand if the pub music was already established when they moved there, they should have been aware of that fact and they had no grounds for complaint.

- John Wild

#4 JimLucas

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Posted 29 January 2005 - 05:36 PM

in England there was a legal ruling established by case law when someone complained about a noisy pub. the argument (by the late Lord Denning) was that if the pub began noisy music after they moved there and so changed the peace of the neighbourhood, they would have grounds for complaint. On the other hand if the pub music was already established when they moved there, they should have been aware of that fact and they had no grounds for complaint.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

As I recall, there was a similar ruling (mid 1960's?) with regard to the noise of jets from the Columbus, Ohio airport. Those who were residents of long standing were awarded damages; those who moved in after the jet traffic was established were not.

That's one of a number of arguments that can be used -- especially if the complainants really are using an argument based on "property value", not one of "public nuisance" or "disturbing the peace", -- but it's important to get those arguments to those who will be arguing in favor of Plough & Stars at the Council meeting. I don't think that presenting them here is going to do that. That's why I asked for contact information.

In some quick googling, I found only one mention of the issue, in the Boston Globe. Unfortunately, it says that Wednesday's meeting (at 1 PM) is "a final public hearing", which implies that cancelling the Plough & Stars entertainment license has already been under consideration by the Council for some time. That's frightening, considering that the complaint should be blatantlly insupportable.

Edited to add: Another important point is that this has been taken up as an executive matter, not a judicial one. I would guess that this is a deliberate strategy on the part of the complainants, since as far as I know the Cambridge City Council is not bound by case law precedent. But I hope that if they decide unfavorably the Plough & Stars would be able to institute a suit against the Council for violating their rights and causing personal injury... and get a court injunction allowing them to continue the music until the judicial case is decided.

Edited by JimLucas, 29 January 2005 - 05:44 PM.


#5 Mark Evans

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Posted 29 January 2005 - 06:59 PM

I will post the contact information by tomorrow afternoon. I'm having a rehearsal with my bluegrass chums and the guitarist is our contact with the Plough. He's frothing at the mouth in an alarming fashion and Jim's words (which I shared with him...hope that's okay) has spurned him take positive action and calm down.

I've run into many local musicians who have a history with the Plough and the pictures on the wall tell their story. The first time I walked in there to play I could feel the presence of this heritage in the walls (honest, I hadn't downed a single pint).

The loss of music there would finish the place and set a precident that could endanger another establishment not ten blocks away... The Cantab (one of the holy sites of acoustic music local and otherwise in Cambridge).

Don't know how long the couple have lived across the way.

Thanks!

#6 Mark Evans

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 04:51 PM

I was a bit late out of the gate with my post (what can you expect from a squeezer who plays bluegrass...and a banjo).

The meeting with the Cambridge License board was held...Friday. Result: Three complaintants and a room full of musicians and community folks in support of the Plough. A compromise was reached.

1) The Plough with take measures to improve sound proofing.
2) Music will stop by 11:00 p.m. On weekends that will give the second musical group short shrift and cost the pub a bit a scratch I'd say.

Something tells me the 3 across the way will be very watchful and unpleasant, but the Plough will not close its door.

#7 JimLucas

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 05:40 PM

A compromise was reached.
1) The Plough with take measures to improve sound proofing.
2) Music will stop by 11:00 p.m. On weekends that will give the second musical group short shrift and cost the pub a bit a scratch I'd say.

Ouch! If the owners of the Plough & Stars accepted that as reasonable, it's capitulation, not compromise.

If that was a simply a decision by the Council, not an agreement among all parties, I think the P&S should considering fighting it in court, because it's both singling them out and causing them financial damage. (I might hope there's a sympathetic lawyer who would consider doing it pro bono.) Furthermore, if they install adequate soundproofing, there should be no need for the 11:00 pm closing rule. It's also unusual to have the same noise curfew on weekends as on weeknights.

But there's still so much I/we don't know. Did the neighbors document a problem using sound-measuring devices, or simply claim they were disturbed? Did they complain to the police, and if so, what did the police report about the situation? And what were the arguments presented?

Something tells me the 3 across the way will be very watchful and unpleasant, but the Plough will not close its door.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Not right away, but I worry that this could be just the first step in forcing them out of business. I'd still like to know details, and who was/is handling the legal arguments.

And I'm just a little curious about the Council meeting being held 5 days before both the newspaper and your source said it was scheduled.

#8 Mark Evans

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 06:59 PM

Doesn't look good. The word Gentrification (is that a word?) was used a lot. On Mass. Ave. in that part of Cambridge? Huh! Drunks will still prowl the avenue in the wee hours pukin' in yer bushes.

It will mean one less place to play in the end.




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