The Boathouse and City Leaders – An opinion

By Darryl Ford

March 19, 2021

My thoughts have been swirling after I was present to witness a police officer harass the Boathouse Restaurant this past weekend.   My wife and I live a few blocks away and walked down to the Boathouse to have dinner Friday night.    The 2 person band was acoustic only, but in good humor as they apologized to the crowd for their limited repertoire as they had to help the Boathouse comply with noise regulations.  Then a police officer arrived in his vehicle and went to the front of the restaurant, the front reception staff rushed the band off the stage, after a few minutes as the officer returned to his car a more senior manager came out to speak to him and eventually told the band to return to the stage.  The officer may have been reluctantly following direction or exercising petty authority.  I will never know what his motivation was, however he was wrong.  The volume was reasonable to a little low and City Hall was dark and empty.

As I thought about that night for the last several days I realized the parallels to my time many (many) years ago as a Resident Advisor in a college dormitory.  We RA’s had petty authority and rules about noise, residents could not be “too loud “ whatever that means.   We could warn (just like the city leaders), fine (just like the city leaders), and even kick residents out of the dormitory ((just like the city leaders can run the Boathouse out of business).  As 20 year olds managing 18 – 20 year olds packed like sardines in a cement block dormitory  we of course had the sense not to do any of those things.  We were there to create a community.  If noise disrupted the floor on a quiet weekday or disturbed fellow residents in shared spaces we had them pipe down.  If it was Friday or Saturday night we said let’s give it to midnight, (I understand 11:00 PM is the deadline downtown) just like we voted to as a community in the beginning of the year.  Residents were encouraged to ask their neighbor first but we were glad to intervene always in the spirit of building a community on our floor.

I wonder what would happen if our City Leaders just called over to the Boathouse and asked them to turn it down as the music was disrupting their meeting?  I wonder if the Boathouse could learn to see the lights on in the meeting room and turn down the music without being asked?  I wonder if our City Leaders and the Boathouse management could be as mature as a bunch of teenage kids away from home for the first time?

Editor’s Note:  After a 35-year career in Human Resources, Darryl Ford and his wife moved to Fernandina’s Historic District in 2018.  Darryl now spends his time as a  volunteer with the Coalition for the Homeless.  We thank Darryl for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

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