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Dalton Piercey

Dalton Piercey performs

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As a music business professional and music artist having a home base in Napa, I have been familiar with performance venues, clubs and dinner houses for the many years of my experience locally and regionally. This is my first commentary on the music industry here in Napa Valley, and I would like to address the issue of entertainment permitting and the “Cabaret License.”

The idea that there exists or existed a “Cabaret License” for entertainment in Napa City proper is a term that has metaphorically been applied to the music entertainment permitting process. Yet there is a problem; there never ever was a “Cabaret License.”

Historically, I have researched and found that there are two historic movements permitting music in Napa city. I find no language in which “Cabaret” appears in the municipal code. So to educate and inform, I have contacted the City Planning Department with questions and it was verified there never ever was a “Cabaret License.”

Now it may be a term that is used by downtown professional business individuals to describe their experience of going through the entertainment permitting process or it may be a term used by a contracted city planner who has a flair for verb-ology exciting a permitting applicant, however once again there never ever was a “Cabaret License.” So to whoever is spreading this, please stop; you are only confusing the already confused issue of music entertainment permitting.

In the history of the Napa Municipal Code, our city government enacted permitting for entertainment in the 1970s and then again in 2012, with the establishment of the Downtown Entertainment District. We find, Title Zoning 17, 17.06 Definitions and 17.10.020 Land Use Regulations from 1970.

Additionally, adjoining Title 8.08 Noise Control Regulations. These are the specific codes that have existed for many years in our entertainment industry.

In 2012, the Downtown Specific Planning Commission with City Planning and City Council approved the Downtown Entertainment District with a revamping of the permitting requirements for music entertainment in the Napa municipality. These are found in Chapter 4 of the Downtown Specific Plan for Land Use Designations and Zoning Districts. Table 4:2 The Entertainment Use’s Framework Permit.

I have come to understand that entertainment incidental to use is permitted citywide. That would be acoustic music from 5 to 8 p.m. It would be 10 percent of your business operation only.

For example, if your business operates 40 hours a week it would be four hours available for entertainment weekly. And if your floor space was 1,200 square feet then it would be 120 square feet for your entertainment music performance to be used. For the accuracy of this math, I always say double check with Napa City Planning and check it twice.

Now for any operation of a business outside of the entertainment district to operate as a music venue/night club you will have to meet compliance standards to be permitted to have music and dancing and that is on a case-by-case evaluation.

Now that I mention dancing, I want to stop you right there. As with the Cabaret license, there is not, and never has been, a municipal dancing permit. I will discuss that another time.

The descriptions and definitions that we find in Chapter 4 are a much better tool for determining exactly what you are doing with your music venture and how it is permitted.

Last summer, I was hired by BurgerFi to help sort out their music permit issue. It turned out that they did not need a Cabaret License (remember, it does not exist) and BurgerFi was in the Entertainment District. Sadly, though, they went out of business. Too bad; the patio would have made a great little spot for tourists to discover music.

I began my participation advocating for changes in our music industry in 2006. I am a known individual among our city servants. In 2012, the changes came. But it is not perfect. There are two changes that can be made administratively by City Planning and City Council. First, the Oxbow is a Commercial district and has grown to be very busy. Music is allowed only until 8 p.m. for some music venues. While others are allowed performances until 10 p.m.

Additionally, the Brown Street and Second Street block facing the Historic Court House can have some small venues. Yet we see that the Entertainment District boundary cuts the block in half from Second to Third Street. The intent behind the maneuver was to authorize only the businesses facing Main Street.

I would offer that downtown and the Oxbow should have a greater liberal position for music in the “Music Entertainment District.”

Editor’s Note: The Register asked the City of Napa about the issue the author raised of various venues in the area having different curfews for music. Public Information Officer Jaina French sent the following statement: “We don’t have enough information to ascertain specifically what permitting process, if any, is required for the performance use being described and it may have been tied to a special event of some kind. However, when the facility was originally built as Copia, it included an outdoor amphitheater, auditorium, and galleries. The Culinary Institute of America at Copia continues many of cultural and educational uses connected with the appreciation of wine, food, and the arts and it is reasonable to associate some sort of performance use with the facility. Should the Planning Division determine that an entertainment use at the facility requires land use approvals, we will reach out to the operators regarding the required approvals.

“Regarding one-time Amplified Noise Permits for private residences, the Police Department reviews those requests and also reviews prior complaints or calls for service before approving a one-time Amplified Noise Permit.”

Dalton J. Piercey is a Napa-based musician.