UPDATE, 3 p.m. Sept. 19: Foxy Loxy Cafe will have to wait to get a ruling on the eight citations they’ve received so far. A city of Savannah attorney asked for a continuance Sept. 18, stating they did not have adequate time to review the case, according to Foxy Loxy owner Jennifer Jenkins. A new court date has not been set. The original citation stated Sept. 19 as the court date. 

 

For seven years, Foxy Loxy Cafe has held live events in its courtyard without complaints from neighbors.

On July 24, Foxy Loxy received its first citation since opening its doors during the weekly Acoustic Tuesday event. They were cited for violating Savannah's noise ordinance 9-2036; specifically the “regulation of sound/amplifying equipment, so to create a noise disturbance.”

Since early August, the coffee shop has been locked in a cycle of citations, receiving a reprimand due to the complaint-based system the city operates in regard to the noise ordinance. Foxy Loxy Cafe will go to Recorders Court on Sept. 19 with eight citations on the books.

Foxy Loxy owner Jennifer Jenkins points to a months-long disagreement with neighbor Sara Georgiadis as the source of the complaints and the new arrival of a weekly citation. Jenkins also said the city did not conduct a decibel reading before issuing the citations. Georgiadis insists she's not trying to shut down events at the cafe, but is simply trying to live in her house comfortably.

The implications of the citations could result in fines, and possibly the end of live events in the courtyard. The end of weekly events like Acoustic Tuesday, Saturday Fire and Wine, as well as various poetry, comedy and vinyl appreciation nights, could endanger a major revenue source for the cafe and art gallery.

Annoying noise

Georgiadis and her late husband purchased the property beside Foxy Loxy in 1998. Since Foxy Loxy opened, Georgiadis has not lived on the property, which was being used as a rental. She said over the years she did receive complaints from tenants about the noise coming from the courtyard but declined to take them seriously.

In mid-November, she moved into the property herself. The very night she moved in, she was startled when a live comedy show in the Foxy Loxy courtyard started up. She did not know about live events in the courtyard when she moved into the property. She said by the end of the event, around 10 p.m., her “nerves were shot.”

“The first night I moved in, it was their adult comedy night,” Georgiadis said. “I had no idea. I’ve been to Foxy for coffee and I met friends there to eat tacos and sat in the garden because I have a dog. I’ve never been there at night for a show.”

Through November and December of last year, Georgiadis and Jenkins were in direct contact trying to resolve the issue but struggled to reach amicable terms. In late January, a city official was dispatched to Foxy Loxy to check if the decibel range was within compliance. They waved off the complaint from Georgiadis, stating that Foxy Loxy was in compliance with the city’s noise control ordinance.

"He did get a reading," Georgiadis said. "He said, I did get a reading, but I would like to come back, especially for Vinyl Night and Poetry Night. Those are the ones that neighbors have been complaining the most about.”

Multiple requests to the city of Savannah for interviews with officials to confirm the city’s involvement have gone unanswered, although initially Michelle Gavin, director of the Office of Public Communication, said she was working on it.

Decibel readings

After the city confirmed with Jenkins that she was in compliance, she resumed live events, taking decibel readings to ensure sound didn’t exceed the 65 decibel range allowed for businesses in the Thomas Square Streetcar District (often simply referred to as the Starland District). With the help of Matt Kaufman, who owns and operates Kaufman-Heinz LLC, a professional live event production company, Jenkins said she trained her staff to take readings for live events.

“We bought a meter and any time a musician sets up, we go to the property line and measure and make sure we’re not over 60 decibels,” Jenkins said.

Georgiadis also took measurements of the decibel levels.

“Mind you, I was measuring on a free app, downloaded from the internet,” Georgiadis said. “I am very aware that is not acceptable anywhere. But it gives me an idea. If I am sitting in my bedroom and even a free download meter is showing me that the noise level has reached 110 [decibels]. I am pretty sure it may not be 110, but it’s not going to be far off.”

Searching for solution

Georgiadis says she does not want to shut down live events at Foxy Loxy. From the beginning, she said she simply wanted more soundproofing to be added to keep the noise from spilling over the narrow gap that separates the two properties.

Jenkins said she complied with Georgiadis' request for more soundproofing by adding a solid wood backing behind the Acoustic Altar, but Georgiadis says it was simply an "$8 piece of plywood.”

After Georgiadis’ complaints began, Jenkins educated herself on the sound ordinance.

“There’s subjective language that is tied to objective measurements,” Jenkins said. “The argument of the city is that they don’t care about us measuring. You don’t even get there. You have a complainant. She hears noise. Therefore you’re — they’re equating a complaint with a violation. It's truly what’s going on. We asked the city if we needed a permit; they said no.”

After the July 24 citation was issued, a number of meetings were held with city officials, Jenkins and Georgiadis. Savannah Police Cpl. Barry Lewis of the Bull Street precinct interrupted a long chain of emails between Jenkins and Deputy Marshall Lorie Odom, among many others, to state that after a meeting with city attorneys, it was decided that Foxy Loxy would be cited in violation of Sections 9-2035 (F), Sections 9-2036. a(1) and Section 9-2036. B if any more complaints were filed.

As advised by her lawyer, Jenkins did not cancel any future events after the initial citation. For weeks now, live events in the courtyard have been topped off with a complaint and then a citation.

“I look forward to going to court,” Jenkins said in an interview in early August.

“Two things I am worried about: In the interim, all of the activities that I have planned, including a wedding or two, I am worried the cops will come and try and stop our activities right in the middle of it. What do I do with those musicians? With the crowd that I’ve promised an evening to? That’s uncomfortable and awkward as a business owner. That’s a short amount of time, but I hate it," Jenkins said.

“And after court, if I am told I can’t do any of this, it would be a huge financial blow, not to mention my vision of Foxy being a cultural hub. It’s really, really important to me.”

Georgiadis would also like to see an amicable end to the issue.

“I texted over and over: Jen, I don’t want to harm your business,” Georgiadis said. “I just need to find a solution, together. Jen, we’re both reasonable, educated people. Let’s work on this together. We can find a solution.

"That solution is not either I leave or she closes her business. The solution is to put up adequate soundproofing. Period. That’s all. That’s all I’ve ever asked for. She can have shows. But she has to have to have them for her audience in the garden.”