As if the bankrupt Brokerage didn't already have enough problems, two of its tenants are engaged in a noisy dispute about noise -- namely, live jazz at Louisiana Cafe that has not been music to the ears of upstairs neighbor Slapstix.
The comedy club has obtained several Baltimore Circuit Court injunctions against Louisiana Cafe in recent months, stipulating that music from the restaurant not interfere with Slapstix' stand-up comedy shows. The injunctions also order the restaurant to install soundproofing to ensure this, according to Dave Castro, attorney for Slapstix owner Chris Cahill.
"These two places have not been happy neighbors," explained Greg Pinkard, vice president of property management for W. C. Pinkard & Co., which operates the Brokerage, a downtown retail, office and entertainment complex.
"The dispute is not dissimilar to somebody in one apartment liking jazz at a certain decibel level and somebody in another apartment liking rock at a different decibel level," he noted.
For Louisiana Cafe, where jazz is an important offering on the Cajun restaurant's entertainment menu, the restraining orders forced the cancellation of performances by the jazz band Moon August and vocalist Aleta Greene in recent weeks, along with all other live entertainment for the immediate future.
"This has pretty much destroyed my entertainment," says James Shivers, owner of the cafe. He said the Brokerage "should not have put a comedy club on top of a restaurant and that's the gospel truth. If the sound goes through the floor, it goes both ways. I don't need for my restaurant patrons to hear dirty jokes" from upstairs.
The two previous tenants at the Louisiana Cafe site -- both failed Mexican restaurants -- did not have music and hence did not run into sound bleed problems. Though Mr. Shivers says the lease he signed last May permits him to stage live jazz and made no mention of soundproofing, he says, nonetheless, he spent $20,000 for soundproofing during construction of the restaurant. He estimates it will cost another $30,000 to comply with the court order, which he expected to do by the end of January.
Earlier attempts to resolve the conflict came to naught. For a while, Louisiana Cafe asked bands to play more softly and to take breaks during the comedy shows upstairs. However, neither side in the dispute found this compromise acceptable.
Complicating the situation is the fact that Brokerage management has itself taken legal action against Louisiana Cafe over back rent. Jerry Hodges, building manager for the Brokerage, declined comment on the dispute.
And another potential complication is that the bankrupt Brokerage will be up for auction on Jan. 8.