The Amsterdam — a friendly no-frills place in St. Petersburg to check out high quality local music and drink craft beers, ciders and various other unique brews — is closing. The venue/watering hole hosts its final show this upcoming Sat., June 11, with beloved locals The Jackettes and Jordan Esker & The Hundred Percent (plus Miami's House Of I) heading up what’s turning out to be an all-day affair starting at 2 p.m. and bleeding well into the night. A liquidation sale of everything inside the joint will happen from June 12 to 15, and owners John Cullen and Zoie Torres have stayed positive in the wake of the decision.
“[We] had a good run,” Cullen wrote to CL. “Closing the doors means opening new ones. Zoie and I still plan on booking/promoting live music, art shows and community events at other venues. We've met so many incredible people along the way.” Cullen expressed endless gratitude to the artists that “gave The Amsterdam life,” and also heaped heavy praise on the St. Petersburg police who were constantly deployed to the bar to check on noise complaints.
“We'd also like to extend a big FUCK YOU to all of the people across the street that called the police on us every night that we had live music,” Cullen added to his statement. “To the [police], thank you for being so cool about it when you came out. We’re sure that you had much better things to do.”
Noise complaints have been lobbed at several downtown St. Pete businesses for years now as Central Avenue has gone through a revival. Cullen is unsure about the number of complaints The Amsterdam received during its tenure there, other than there were “a lot.”
“I’m pretty sure we had the most out of everyone,” he said.
A public records request asking how many, if any, official complaints were lodged against the bar was submitted by CL on May 2. A 2014 story in the Tampa Bay Times outlined the complaints against several bars, which mostly centered around what time live music should stop. The city noise ordinance was last updated in March, according to assistant city attorney Mark Winn.
It regulates many sources of sounds, including outdoor amplified music, and generally demands that venues with amplified music quiet down by 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. Winn also explained it’s a bit more complicated than that and depends on what time of day “plainly audible” music is playing and how far the sound is traveling. St. Petersburg moved away from using decibel meters about a decade ago in lieu of the current measure, where an officer stands at distance to determine whether or not the noise in question is plainly audible. There's been discussion about whether or not to return to decibel meters, but Winn says the “plainly audible” measurement is easier to implement.
Citations are issued at the discretion of law enforcement, but to have a better chance at holding up in the courts, citations must come with a sworn statement from the offended party.
There’s an endless debate there about the noise that comes with choosing to live in a vibrant city, but Cullen had deeper reasons for closing The Amsterdam. He wanted to spend more time with his kids. The landlord is selling the building, and the new buyers aren’t interested in renewing the lease. Cullen says he knew the risks associated, and has no regrets, but also came to a realization about where his heart is.
“We can eliminate a ton of overhead and still organize art shows, music shows and community events by utilizing so many other amazing spaces and not splitting the crowds,” Cullen said. “We've learned that we don't need a bar to fulfill our passion.”
More information on the farewell show is available on Facebook.