Letters to the Editor

Ocracoke Bar & Grille owner responds to Ehringhaus letter

Editor’s note: The following is in response to Ann Ehringhaus’s letter to the editor published Jan. 30. Although many in the community have responded directly to Hyde County Manager Bill Rich’s letter sent by email to those on the OCBA email list, Ehringhaus and Death sent specific letters to the editor.

Editor:

If my name and statements are going to be published in a letter to the public, I would like to request the entire statement in its context be used and not just snippets that would seem to support an otherwise unreasonable agenda.

While that portion of the statement about refunding money to guest is true, it was just part of this statement that follows in its entirety right here:

During the OCCBA meeting I said that I have refunded close to $1000 to customers who complained about noise from neighboring businesses and that unlike you, I was not calling the deputies and going to our local government, spending taxpayer money nor wasting county officials’ time because of a small percentage of my customers. I further explained that I felt this was something I could work out with my neighbor rather than make a huge ordeal involving the entire community. This has been going on, off and on, for three, almost four years.

I further explained that while I did not have an idea or solution to present to my neighbors I did not think it was fair to just demand someone change their business model because I don’t like it. In fact I followed by saying that one day we might have an idea, or a solution may present itself, but until then I would not unreasonably expect someone to change their business model (a very successful model that generates a great deal of revenue in an otherwise poor county) in the name of a small percentage of folks.
I further explained that while some folks did not appreciate the noise, most other folks (a great majority more than those who complained) have joked and asked me to put a gate in the fence to make a neighboring business more accessible to them.

This is an all too common problem with society today: People complaining to a local government and demanding they fix something but not providing a solution or ideas, rather just raising a flag screaming, “This bothers me; YOU fix it.”

As far back as May 2015 (we only opened in Feb. 2015) my wife and I have offered to outfit (Oscar’s B&B) with a new technology that is PROVEN to reduce noise up to an average of 30 db in homes and apartments located in heavy populated metropolitan areas.  Ms. Ehringhaus kindly declined and continued to (in so many words) demand nothing short of silence.

Between May and June 11, 2015, my wife and I sat down and reviewed our business model and financial planning and concluded we could change our business model. It would be expensive, but nonetheless we started aiming to enclose the building. We told Ms. Ehringhaus (email conversation available to anyone who would like to see proof) that we would begin trying to enclose the building but that would take about a season or two of revenue for us to save the money to do this. We asked that if we could all please compromise and be patient we would pursue this direction. Once again Ms. Ehringhaus refused.

We have still pursued this avenue and have spent more than $20,000 alone in our first year of business to dampen sound to achieve this goal and yet it’s not fast enough for Ms. Ehringhaus. Spending that much money in a restaurant’s first year of business (Feb. 21 will be one year) is a pretty bold action. Most business owners know it takes a restaurant at least two years to start producing profit. A bank will not even consider a restaurant’s revenue in an owner’s income until after the second year of operation because this fact is well known in the financial sector.

We have had rules in place that prohibit drums sets. (Ok, we do have a musician with a steel drum) ALL live music stops at 9:50 p.m.

Before a performer begins, I stand in the middle of the road sometime blocking traffic taking decibel readings and telling the musicians where they need to keep their volume. (Because all musician’s want the guy hiring them telling them where to put the toggles on their equipment).

We prohibit people from smoking out front or congregating in the street.

We erected fencing the front of the outdoor dining area to prevent customers’ friends from congregating in the front of the building and talking.

We make smokers smoke out back.

At 9:50 p.m. when live acoustic music ends the house speakers are all turned off except two small speakers the size of most computer speakers located behind the bar, and most times we even turn them off when patrons start talking loud.

We often ask patrons to leave if they are talking or laughing too loud. Yes, we frequently ask patrons to please pay up and leave because they laugh to loud. I can produce two witnesses that live on the island willing to attest they have been asked to leave for this reason.

We could have spent a little less money on enclosures for weather but the zip-track brand we choose made in Australia offered a tighter fit ensuring to capture more sound. It’s all we can afford at this time to show we are moving toward our promise of enclosing our building. We barely afforded to have this completed by Halloween.

Our business model is of an Open Air Beach Bar and Grille in Paradise–a sustainable business that uses as many renewable and sustainable ways we can find to provide a relaxing paradise vacation experience.

Now we have willingly changed this model against our desires to enclose and eventually install air conditioning that will require us to become more dependent on fossil fuels that we have up until now been able to have a minimal dependence on.

We maintain licenses (not an easy task to keep up) to purchase local seafood right from the fishermen to further support fresh, local, sustainable seafood. (We sold more than 30,000 OCRACOKE CLAMS in our first season). This helped local fishermen pay bills and support their families.

Ms. Ehringhaus claims that she has had to install new double pane windows to block the noise. The TRUTH to that FACT is that work was being completed before we even opened for the first day of business. BEFORE Feb. 21, 2015.

Ms. Ehringhaus claims that she has had to install a wall to block noise. That work was completed more than three years ago. I cannot seem to find a permit on file to get the exact date it was installed, but the wall is there and has been for more than three years, and not because of Ocracoke Bar & Grille.

So if neighbors are supposed to compromise, I ask: What more can we do to try and compromise besides closing the doors?

We have not seen one action of compromise from Ms. Ehringhaus’ part. The only action we have seen is to the local sheriff and attending sparsely attended meetings to emphatically complain but not offer any solutions.

We were eventually ticketed for TALKING. And 58 db was the recorded level during the incident, and it was stated under oath that the talking was not loud enough to tell what the topic of conversation was. You couldn’t hear what we were talking about.  Ms. Ehringhaus just heard muffled talking and that got us the ticket and THAT IS THE TRUTH.

If compromise is two parties working toward a common goal then shouldn’t Ms. Ehringhaus be required to enclose and better insulate her business?  As it is right now, the windows to her business of a B&B and massage are open no matter if the outside temperature is 98 degrees in summer, or this fall and winter when it was down to 45 degrees.

These are the absolute truths, and I have the email conversations to show that this is the truth, not just half of the story.

And now for our word to the community of Ocracoke is:

No matter the outcome, our goal is to operate a sustainable business that contributes to the local economy in more ways than one.

Only have acoustical live music that will always end at or before 10 p.m.

We will continue to not allow drum sets.

We will continue our policy of not allowing congregating in the front of the building or in the front parking lot or in the street.

We will continue to turn off speakers in the whole property except the two small bar speakers.

We will continue to ask patrons laughing too loud to leave.

I implore the commissioners of Hyde County, the community of Ocracoke and all its visitors to oppose this ordinance and allow Ann Ehringhaus and I to settle this between us and not use any more county resource on this issue that, honestly, could be better spent in other areas of our community that NEED this type of attention but for some reason do not.

Sean Death
Owner, Ocracoke Bar & Grille

12 replies »

  1. Sean thank you for your letter. It is this level of compromise that will help to resolve the problem. I appreciate all that you have offered to do in an effort to make it work.

  2. The Deaths have been more than accommodating — unfortunately, when one party fails to meet halfway or even present themselves as reasonable business owners in any way, shape or form, it makes it difficult for all involved. To take it to this extreme certainly raises the question of the stability of one of the parties involved. Time to practice what they preach in their line of business.

  3. Sean and Laurie are true business owners just trying to make living and vacationing on the island more enjoyable foe everyone on the Island. I personally know that they have tried to avoid problems and try to Fix them. I support them and all Bar owners on the Island~

  4. I can’t believe that the local government is actually considering this. Wow. Ocracoke does not need the reputation of a nursing home community. This is a tourist driven economy and tourist need to be able to talk past 10:00 p.m.
    Please vote this proposed ordinance down.

  5. This whole thing is ridiculous! All you have to do is get noise machines. Heck you can get an app on your cell phone that will block out all the noise you want. You people complaining about this need to get a life and get over the noise problem. Ocracoke is a great place that I have been coming to for 40 years. Sure there have been times when people have been partying and talking and laughing late at night. They paid to come to this island and spend their money to pay your taxes. Give them a break. They are having fun. What is the big deal? Get over it!!!! Calvie Wingfield

  6. The decibel levels proposed in the ordinance will have a great impact in the daytime hours as well as night!! Get rid of your lawn mowers and weed eaters. Do you propose tickets for all motorcycle traffic as they pass through the village? Daily activities will become impossible! The proposed decibel levels were, obviously, proposed by someone with no knowledge of sounds and decibel levels.

    By the way, love the fried clam basket, Sean!!

  7. ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE O BAR GREAT FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT!!!!!!!maybe offer a discount coupon to all b&b patrons!!!!!

  8. never thought I would be kicked out of a bar for laughing too loud….sad to see it come to this

      • Apparently it has nothing to do with the current or proposed ordinance, Sean says in his letter …”No matter the outcome…. We will continue to ask patrons laughing too loud to leave.” If true, very doubtful I’ll spend any time there.