Fernandina’s Music Clampdown — Boat House Latest Biz Fined

By most accounts, the city ordinance regulating loud music is vague, as is the way music level is measured.

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

— Steve’s Marketplace —

You probably know about the day the music died by Don McLean’s epic song, “American Pie.” By contrast, this is the day the music is denied.

Through a chorus of heavy-handed tactics, city officials have sporadically come down on music-playing venues in Fernandina Beach. With the beat of a drum, with the weight of a subjective noise ordinance.

One popular downtown venue took to Facebook this week to belt out its defiance. The words rang out:

“Hear ye, hear ye. Here we go again! Another establishment is being attacked for having music – REASONABLE music.”

The town crier turns out to be the owner of The Patio Place restaurant. Crying out in support of live music in downtown, at her popular place as well as neighboring venues. The live music makes the town come alive, or like McLean croons: “How that music used to make me smile.”

Most recently, city officials have targeted a new restaurant, The Boat House, with hefty fines for playing its music too loud (or what they believe is too loud). It is a trendy new establishment that took the place – and the name – of the old boat repair shop.

This is hardly a coincidence. The promising venue is across the street from and in the crosshairs of City Hall, the source of the musical harassment.

The Boat House Restuarant Bar Music Stage, Fernandina City Hall Across The Street, Downtown. Photo by Amelia Island Living magazine.
The Boat House Music Stage, Fernandina Beach City Hall Across The Street

The reactions from Facebook viewers overwhelmingly favored the business and opposed the city. One brave resident backed the city’s punitive actions, and was immediately skewered with criticism. Here are various comments from the Facebook post:

“I am just glad I don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘Gee, what can I do to destroy a small business today.”

“How can this be legal? There is no objective evidence. What one (police) officer determines is acceptable, another may issue a citation for.”

“There has been loud music, laughter, and other noise coming from Centre Street for decades. People know this. So why move there and complain.”

“What made our town quaint was the diversity. I loved it the way it was, and should still be. I am sorry but stuffy people should keep their stuffiness to themselves. Don’t move to Fernandina to make it like where you came from. Fernandina has its own uniqueness.”

“AMEN! Too many of those ‘stuffy’ people have moved here. If they don’t like our quaint town, then move! Don’t try to change our town to what you moved away from!”

“This is crazy. I’m so sorry for everyone involved. The music is always so good and we are so lucky to have such talented artists living here.”

“I chose to live downtown and love hearing the music.”

“The Boat House has so many community leaders and influencers painted on their walls (including people on the City Commission, yes?).”

The city should welcome new businesses with open and adoring arms. After all, businesses invest private capital into our town – and pay substantial property taxes. This defrays the burden from individual taxpayers.

On the contrary, new businesses of all types routinely endure onerous rules, bureaucratic delays, and exorbitant costs. It’s so bad they resort to social media to vent and to be heard.

City officials should embrace our businesses, and not call the police on them – especially in a pandemic’s horrid wake. This should not be a case of City v. Business. Instead, do as businesses do. Back the new businesses in our form of friendly B2B commerce.

By most accounts, the city ordinance regulating loud music is vague. As is the way the music level is measured. If a perceived violation occurs, city officials should act amicably toward the business. And rewrite the lyrics of a sad song – into a glad song.

Steve Nicklas Financial Advisor
Steve Nicklas


Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a regional brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in weekly newspapers in North Florida and in South Georgia, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, All About Money, of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].