After a recent meeting in which noise complaints were brought up against the Brickhouse, the restaurant's partnering owners say they have a different point of view in the matter.
During its regular meeting of the Prestonsburg City Council on Aug. 17, officials heard from Ron Ball, a longtime city resident, as he was delegated on behalf of several others to express their respective concerns with the live music which is being played at the Brickhouse. However, according to the restaurant's partnering owners LaDonna McKinney and Mike McKinney, issues such as those date back to when the Brickhouse first opened.
The Brickhouse, according to Mike McKinney, opened around Oct. 2013, and, during that time, there were quite a number of issues that arose upon its opening. Mike said a number of people within the neighborhood fought back against the restaurant opening, so complaints such as the ones made during Prestonsburg's Aug. 17 meeting were nothing new.
"This has been going on since then," Mike said. "We were not the ones that opened the restaurant. We purchased it in Oct. 2017, but from our understanding, people have always told us the former owners had issues with the neighbors constantly complaining."
Mike said he believes there are, and have been, a number of individuals within the neighborhood who didn't want the restaurant to open to begin with and probably weren’t happy with the business being "railroaded in" despite their better efforts.
The stretch of road where the Brickhouse is located on is South Lake Drive, which Mike said is basically all businesses due to the area being for both residential and business. Mike, who operates a dental office nearly 500 feet away from the restaurant and has been located there since 2006, said he believes this should be his neighborhood as well.
According to LaDonna and Mike, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially at the beginning, has been hard on the business, as many such as restaurants took arguably the biggest hit during which. However, Mike said that the Brickhouse was lucky to be able to maintain carryouts because of its loyal customer base within the city.
"We had to just try and keep some people employed," Mike said. "And we were able to keep a lot of people on because we got a lot of support from the community, when we needed it the most.
"We were able to survive and make it and we feel like we were lucky to still be able to make it, during a time so many other businesses couldn't," he added.
While operating at 25 percent capacity, with unlimited outdoor seating, the restaurant has been able to do "ok." But, Mike said it’s still trying to recover and dig its way out from the restrictions caused by COVID-19, and that's where the two believe a lot of the issues stem from.
"Being as things were, we really had no choice but to put music, if we had it, out on the patio," Mike said. "We kind of felt like it was kind of our duty to the community, since people have been stuck at home for so long. If you can get out, be outside and the Gov. (Andy Beshear) says we can do live music, then we felt like we need to for the community because nobody else was."
According to Mike, he knew having the music outside was going to lead to complaints, due to the neighborhood's history, but he said the restaurant just wants to provide some entertainment during a time in which not much is happening.
The ironic part, according to Mike, is that, before COVID, the Brickhouse rarely had music outside. However, LaDonna said the restaurant would still receive one to two complaints a month.
"Even though we had it inside, doors closed, trying to keep it quiet. It's just been an ongoing battle," Mike said. "When we had our meeting, basically three houses out of the whole neighborhood showed up. So that kind of tells me that it's probably not everyone but just a few individuals that just don't want this business to be here at all.”
LaDonna and Mike said that both want to be "good neighbors" and work with the homeowners who have issues to find solutions. According to LaDonna, due to the complaints, the restaurant has changed its timeframe during which live music takes place. It now occurs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., as opposed to its previous time slot from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The restaurant has told performers that no drums are allowed to be played, as well. The two said they have even tried to direct the music away from the homes and have tried to move towards acoustic performances.
Despite making some changes, the two believe the complaints are starting to affect the business as they continue to ensue.
"Here's the question I asked in the meeting: ‘What do you want out of this, what would be your ideal situation to come from this?’ To which one of the replies we received was, and I quote, 'To never have any live music outside, ever,'" Mike said. "I understand where they are coming from. They want to sit out on their porch and read a book or whatever, without any distractions. I see that and I understand that ... but we can't quit the music, there'd be no way to keep our business afloat."
Mike said he believes that, despite continuing to try and appease the select homeowners in the neighborhood, there may not be an easy solution.
"We've really tried to do everything we can, without cutting out the music which we need for our business," Mike said. "But, it just doesn't seem like we can make a few people happy."
Mike, who watched some of the discussion that took place during the Aug. 17 meeting, said he believes that the group is attempting to hire legal counsel as to possible sue and close the restaurant. The couple said they don’t want to see that happen, and that there are few grounds for a lawsuit, as the city has no noise ordinance that the restaurant is violating.
Mike and LaDonna said that they have had conversations with city officials, but have yet to formally address the council in an open meeting as, according to Mike, they haven't really seen a reason to yet. He added that the council has been very cooperative with them and easy to work with.
"We've went out of our way to try and work with them to try and prevent this from going any further," Mike said. "We want to be good neighbors and we want to do anything we can to help appease everyone.
"But we got to stay open because this is my livelihood . This is our livelihood," LaDonna added.
The complaints, which the couple termed harassment, have caused them to internally question whether the pros outweigh the cons. According to the McKinneys, they have contemplated closing the restaurant and moving to a new location, as the complaints are beginning to affect its services.
LaDonna said that some performers have even turned down the opportunity to play music at the restaurant, due to constantly being asked to play more quietly because of complaints coming in.
"We kind of just feel like we're fighting a losing battle, because no matter how much we try, it's never good enough," Mike said.