San Luis Obispo's This Old House to stay in business — for now

Tribune file photo

The folks who like to dance to live music at a historic Foothill Boulevard nightspot and restaurant in San Luis Obispo will be able to boogie for a few more months, at least.

The county Planning Commission has given Andrew Adams, owner of the Clubhouse at This Old House, until Feb. 10 to find a way to stay in business without keeping neighbors awake at night with what they have described as loud music at late hours.

Under the decision rendered Friday, Adams, the county and neighbors are supposed to work together to find a solution.

The directive followed a 2 1⁄2 hour hearing at which Adams and many of his customers described This Old House as one of a few establishments in the county at which people of a certain age can go to hear music and dance.

“It’s a great venue for older patrons who don’t want to be downtown with the drunk students,” one customer said.

“It serves people who are too old to have the stamina to stay up with the kids,” Adams said.

Nonetheless, commission Chairwoman Anne Wyatt repeatedly asked why the owner could not find a different venue, one that is not in a residential neighborhood.

“Is there some reason why this site is special and it has to stay there?” she asked.

Wyatt, who owns a small business in Cambria, interrupted Adams several times as he spoke and said she could understand why neighbors might be skeptical about taking him at his word when he said he wanted to fix the situation.

She said she had recently eaten at This Old House and noticed that the menu stated it would be open until midnight when its permit does not allow it to stay open that late.

Wyatt asked Deputy County Counsel Jim Orton if the neighbors’ complaints were enough to make a legal case for yanking Adams’s operating permit.

Orton said the burden of proof is on the county, and Commissioner Carlyn Christianson said the county had not met that burden.

Other commissioners agreed and said they wanted a solution short of taking away the operating permit, which Adams said would have closed the restaurant and thrown his employees out of work.

Wyatt’s questioning followed a series of complaints from the restaurant’s neighbors on Johe Lane and Guerra Drive.

Gene Johe complained of “rowdy customers” and argued that many restaurants “do just fine” without live music.

Several neighbors testified that they had had no problems with the people who occupied the business before Adams took over in 2007.

They accused Adams of playing music that was too loud, playing it beyond his legal hours and being intransigent when they complained.

However, Adams’ supporters, including musicians who play at the venue, said Adams works to hold to his prescribed hours and noise levels.

Adams added that he has sunk millions of dollars into the property, including tens of thousands of dollars to build a sound fence.

He told Wyatt that removing his permit “would have put the nail in the coffin. I have no money.”

Conflicting testimony dominated the hearing, which was in many ways a “he said-she said” discussion about how much of a problem the sound is for neighbors and how vigorous Adams has been about enforcing the rules.

At one point, the hearing veered off into a philosophical discussion about the nature of music, with some witnesses testifying that one man’s loud noise is another man’s pleasant melody.

The compromise solution was suggested by county Code Enforcement Officer Art Trinidade.