Colorado Music-Related Business|

By Michael Roberts, Westword | Wax Trax Records has lost its latest battle with the City of Denver regarding a noise complaint over live-music performances on the sidewalk outside the store at 638 East 13th Avenue, where the iconic business has operated for 45 years. But the war is far from over.

In February, a hearing officer had tossed the citation and accompanying $250 fine that the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment had handed Wax Trax last fall, saying that the department had failed to produce evidence that the complainant — there was only one — or anyone else had been harmed by the free shows last summer. But the city appealed that action, and during a May 11 hearing before the DDPHE’s board, both the citation and the fine were reinstated — even though the complainant did not make an appearance. Again.

“The department is pleased with the outcome of the hearing,” says DDPHE spokesperson Amber Campbell, “and believes that this decision may have lasting effects on witness participation requirements for future noise hearings.”

But Pete Stidman, manager of Wax Trax and son of co-owner Dave Stidman, thinks that the board’s action could backfire.

“You can’t cite an administrative hearing as a precedent in any kind of court I’ve ever heard of,” Stidman says. “It’s not a thing. But the city is accelerating this to a place where a precedent could be set a couple of appeals down the road.”

And yes, Stidman and Wax Trax plan to appeal — to Denver District Court.

The roots of the controversy can be traced back to the pandemic. Stidman, a former city planner for communities in the Boston area, moved back to Denver on March 3, 2020, shortly before businesses citywide were ordered to close in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Even after Wax Trax was allowed to reopen, most concert venues remained shuttered — so Stidman launched a series of free Sunday afternoon gigs (they typically ran from 1 to 3 p.m.) designed to give people a chance to see live performances again.

The events became weekly in 2021, running from May to October that year and the next, with two or three groups typically playing 45-minute sets — and the feedback Stidman received from residents was positive, he says.

But there was a notable exception. The “Allegations” section of the noise complaint, filed in September 2022, included a quote from an anonymous neighbor griping about “punk band concerts playing on the sidewalk with full drum kits, amps and band performance. The concerts go on for hours and now every weekend that shakes the windows to our apt across the street. I’ve been patient and can handle loud music, but it’s escalating and moved to weekly instead of monthly. It triggers migraines with how loud it is since they’re right outside in a residential area. The cherry on top is that often these bands are playing to a crowd of less than 10 people and instead just cause hours of hell every weekend for their neighbors.”
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Read the rest of Michael’s story here:

[Thanks to Alex Teitz for contributing this article!]

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