The man who built a reputation as the “rock star” of New Orleans trash collection says live music from the bar next door has been a significant headache for him and has thwarted his efforts to sell his Esplanade Avenue mansion.
Sidney Torres IV, former president of SDT Waste and Debris Services, defended his lawsuit against Buffa’s bar Tuesday, arguing that live music at the business has increased in recent years and can easily be heard from his bedroom overlooking the bar.
“I’m not going to deal with a bass sound and hearing people clapping in my living room, and anyone else in my situation would feel the same way,” Torres said.
He is seeking an injunction against Buffa’s that would prevent the bar from having live music. The bar’s owners say they have the proper permits for music and have tried to accommodate Torres since he began raising objections to the music this year.
A hearing in the case will be held July 22 in Civil District Court.
Torres, who frequented the bar in the past, said he’s not against music but that the noise from Buffa’s is too much for him.
“I am a huge music lover. My best friend is a good musician,” Torres said. “I have no problem at all with the culture of New Orleans.”
Torres, who comes from a prominent St. Bernard family, rose to prominence in TV spots highlighting his former company’s trash removal service. He sold the business three years ago but also has owned hotels in the French Quarter and opened a resort in the Bahamas called The Cove last year.
Buffa’s has been in business at its current location since 1939 and has hosted live music at least as far back as 1984, said Chuck Rogers, who bought the bar with other members of his family more than three years ago.
While the bar may have hosted music in the past, Torres said, the frequency of its live shows increased dramatically after the Rogers family bought the business and cleared pool tables out of the back room to install a stage.
Torres owns the adjoining property, through a company called 1011 Esplanade Avenue, and four other properties in the area. He said he stays in the house when he’s in New Orleans, which he said is one or two weeks a month.
“I’m one of the largest property owners in that area when they got this permit, and I had zero chance to do anything or say anything,” he said.
Torres put his house up for sale last year. He said he has since taken it off the market because music from Buffa’s created problems selling it.
“I have had issues two times with people backing out because of the music,” he said.
Legally, the crux of the fight between Torres and Buffa’s seems to hinge on whether the bar followed proper procedures when it obtained a permit authorizing live music in 2012. That came amid a citywide crackdown on venues that were presenting live music without proper permits.
Buffa’s didn’t have such a permit at the time. Rogers said he had been told one was not necessary for performances by small groups of unamplified musicians. While other bars in New Orleans protested the new enforcement measures, Buffa’s showed officials paperwork indicating they had been hosting live music for years. That qualified them for a permit under a rule that allowed existing venues to be grandfathered in.
Torres’ suit claims that because the bar is in a historic district, it should have had to prove it had hosted live music for 10 years, instead of the two years that officials looked for before granting the permit. Rogers said the bar has in fact hosted music regularly since at least 1984.
Complaints about noise from Buffa’s started only this spring, Rogers said.
He said he has tried to accommodate Torres by installing a different type of stage that would transmit fewer vibrations, and had planned to install additional soundproofing on the wall abutting Torres’ property later this month.
But improvements or not, Torres said, the bar should not be allowed to host music at all.
Torres said any evidence Buffa’s turns over to prove its claims of live music in the past will be heavily scrutinized. He said he wants to see proof such as canceled checks to performers or past advertising for shows, not just letters from patrons or performers.
“It’s not something I’m just going to say, ‘You produced a couple pieces of paper and proved it,’ ” Torres said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.