Bar, neighbors at odds over noise


OREGON – Neighbors near Sledgehammer’s in Oregon say the noise from loud music is keeping them indoors or out of the house on weekends, and the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department makes regular weekend stops at the business with noise complaints.

But Sledgehammer’s owner Jason Stombaugh said they have tried to be good neighbors and have worked hard to keep the noise from being a problem.

“We feel that we have done our due diligence to operate correctly,” he said.

But Lant Huntley, who owns Huntley Wood just south of the bar, said the noise from the outside music on the weekends has been very disruptive.

“We’re having a terrible, terrible time,” he said.

Huntley said during the summer he has weekend horticulture seminars on his 40-acre property but was afraid to start them this year.

“It’s hard for me to even hear on the grounds,” he said.

He said many neighbors are concerned about the loud music and that one actually leaves every weekend to camp out just to escape the noise. Another, he said, will be selling their home.

Stombaugh bought the property at 1540 IL Rt. 2 in 2016 and spent a couple of years preparing it to open. He said he went through the process to get a special use permit for the bar so they could have live music.

“The entire County Board voted on this and it was unanimous,” he said.

He said they have tried hard to not be disruptive and have adjusted the placement of the live bands a number of times to help alleviate the noise.

“We are trying very hard,” said Melissa Wall, bar manager and also an owner.

She said they have talked with the neighbors and have even given them their phone numbers to call if there is a problem.

Those neighbors might not be calling them, but they are calling the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department to lodge noise complaints.

Sheriff Brian VanVickle said deputies have been to Sledgehammer’s because of noise complaints more than 150 times this year. He said they have been called by numerous residents on weekends.

“It’s multiple residents that are calling,” he said. “And it’s not just to the south.”

And all of those calls mean deputies must respond. Because of that, VanVickle said they are spending more time on this noise issue than they are in some of the villages in the county.

In response, the Ogle County Board in September adopted the county’s first noise ordinance. Previously, the Sheriff’s Department was responding using the state statute, which deems a noise complaint disorderly conduct. Stombaugh said someone on the staff has been arrested 14 times because of the complaints.

Those cases are going to court this month, they said.

The new county noise ordinance states that loud music must stop by 10 p.m. or fines can be levied. Those fines are $500 for the first offense, $500 to $1,000 for the second and $1,000 for the third.

County Board Chairman John Finfrock said the noise complaints coming from the live music at Sledgehammer’s was the reason for the new ordinance, which makes exceptions for the Byron Dragway, the Ogle County Fair and agriculture.

“We were getting all kinds of complaints from the neighbors,” he said.

Stombaugh said they are already stopping the outside music no later than 10 p.m.

 “We’re just trying to be business owners, run a business and feed our families,” he said.