May 19, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Colony seeks permission for its outdoor music venue in Woodstock

3 min read

For those anticipating another summer at the Colony Beer Garden, the venue may move one step closer to permanent approval at a virtual Woodstock Panning Board meeting, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5 (email [email protected] for the link). That approval could include permission for live music outdoors at Colony’s 21 Rock City Road venue. A group seeking a return to quieter evenings in their homes will likely make the case for denial.

Colony owners Neil and Alexia Howard will argue for making the popular outdoor gathering spot permanent, bolstering their contention that with changes to the stage location, acoustic baffling and scheduling of more acoustic acts in the later hours among other steps, will mitigate the traveling of sound through residential areas nearby.

The Howards opened the beer garden in June, 2020, under an emergency order enacted by town Supervisor Bill McKenna allowing a bypass of the normal planning and zoning review. The order was intended to allow establishments to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic while giving cooped-up music lovers a safe respite from isolation. But that order has expired, requiring businesses to either dismantle their outdoor setups or file a site plan for review.

More than 100 emails flooded into the planning office, with a vast majority in favor of the beer garden, but along with those came complaints about music being heard as far away as Ohayo Mountain and the Zena Cornfield. The town’s hills and valleys make sound travel in unpredictable ways, where sometimes what is hard to hear next door, it can be heard a mile from the source.

The Howards explained the trouble began last summer, when larger, louder bands originally booked for the indoor stage were moved outdoors due to a spike in COVID cases.

In January, the Planning Board told the Howards to come back with a proposal that it can approve on a trial basis.

But Glasco Turnpike resident Claire Keith, widow of the late banjo great Bill Keith, has spoken for a group of affected homeowners who would rather not have the beer garden music become permanent.

“It has not been easy to make our voices heard against a flood of coordinated Facebook campaigns that called for unconditional allegiance to the social environment of the Beer Garten (which we are glad to support too), but also to a distorted definition of ‹Music’ as an exalted and untouchable Woodstock cultural product that is entitled to come before the community’s legal rights to peace and privacy,” she wrote in a letter to the Town Board and Planning Board in February.

Keith said the group has “lost our forever-homes in the hills to a continuous stream of ill-defined, broken bits of electronic noise, six hours a day, five days a week, seven months of the year, in the most precious hours of outdoor living.”

She also noted people who complain about the music are called “anti-Woodstock” and “music killers” for speaking out about it.

“We will all be glad to bless a Beer Garten as a welcome social venue with beer, food, and yes, music too, but only if this musical product reaches solely and verifiably the patrons who have chosen to come to their premises and pay willingly to enjoy it,” Keith wrote.

She added it is the Colony owners’ responsibility to find technical solutions that limit the sound to the property line and noted it should be reviewed by the Zoning Board of Appeals and Town Board.

The Planning Board meets May 5 any 6:30 p.m. via Zoom and will hear Colony’s proposal at 6:45 p.m. Call (845) 679-2113 or email [email protected] for the link.