Acoustic Coffeehouse owner says police ask him to not play music on patio

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – The Acoustic Coffeehouse in Johnson City says police officers have repeatedly stopped by the business claiming  it is violating a city ordinance by playing music on the back patio.

Music is what Acoustic Coffeehouse owner Jim Benelisha knows best.

“I’ve been playing music most of my life,” Benelisha said.

His cello, is his passion and recently he says Johnson City police have been trying to silence that passion. Telling him he can’t play music on the back patio of his West Walnut Street coffee shop.

Their latest visit was Wednesday night.

“They are coming because we are breaking a city code that says be we are not supposed to be playing music. They won’t tell me where that code is or where it says that and I don’t know where it says that in the city code,” Benelisha said.

We checked the code ourselves and there is a city ordinance that says it is illegal to create sound louder than 75 decibels in a residential zone between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Benelisha says, officers never told him he was in violation and he was not cited. We took his concerns to chief building official James Sullivan.

“Mr. Benelishia and the Acoustic Coffee House under the exception of the code, can play music in the rear of the yard as long as they don’t violate the noise ordinance,” Sullivan said.

Johnson City police told News Channel 11 when they get a noise complaint it is protocol for officers to follow up and that is why they stop by Benelisha’s business.

“We have had several complaints of noise violations that have came through 911 and officers have dispatched to investigate, since July we have had 22 noise complaints at that business that we have investigated,” Major Karl Turner said.

Back in March, Major Turner says Benelisha’s business was found in violation of the city noise ordinance and had to pay a fine.

“They’re disrupting my business. They are making it harder for me to make a living and it feels like harassment and intimidation,” Benelisha said.

Still Benelisha wants the police to stop making visits to his coffee shop and let he and his customers enjoy their music in peace.

City commissioners will hear a first reading Thursday night on a new ordinance that would not allow music to be played at an outside restaurant at all in the West Walnut Street corridor.

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