After prolonged battle with Delray Beach over noise complaints, Studio 404 permanently closes on Atlantic Avenue

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DELRAY BEACH — It was intended to help revitalize Delray Beach’s West Atlantic Avenue, but following a yearlong battle with the city over noise complaints, Studio 404 Frozen Daiquiri Bar and Cafe has permanently closed after opening last February.

Studio 404 was evicted by the property owner after failing to pay rent for December, January and February, according to court documents. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office served the final eviction notice on Thursday.

Located at 404 W. Atlantic Ave. between a condominium complex and a residential neighborhood, Studio 404 repeatedly drew the ire of some neighbors, who said the music from the bar’s outdoor patio was so loud it blared through their living rooms and made it difficult to sleep at night.

During a six-month span from June to September, Delray Beach Police received received 74 noise complaints against Studio 404, as compared to the next-highest total of seven, according to a public records request from the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The backlash has led city officials to craft a stricter noise ordinance for restaurants and bars, which will include the use of decibel readers.

Studio 404 co-owner Alex Burns, however, felt they were unfairly targeted and that the repeated visits from police and code enforcement officers hurt the business, making it unsustainable.

The bar, which initially featured live bands and DJs before the complaints, was trying to help jump-start the West Atlantic community The Set, which honors the West Settlers Historic District, Delray Beach’s first African-American neighborhood, established in 1894.

“We weren’t a household name,” Burns said. “We were a brand-new restaurant trying to establish ourselves. One of the ways to do so is being able to entertain the guests [by playing music]. That coupled with COVID and the job market — it was one thing after the other.”

Outdoor dining at Studio 404 Frozen Daiquiri Bar & Cafe in Delray Beach on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.

Outdoor dining at Studio 404 Frozen Daiquiri Bar & Cafe in Delray Beach on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

One of the core issues regarding the noise complaints was that Studio 404 was outside the city’s entertainment district, which runs on Atlantic Avenue from Swinton Avenue to Federal Highway and allows bars and restaurants longer operating hours.

The district was designed to confine the revelry into a clear-cut area to help limit boisterous noise from infiltrating residential areas across the city.

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After receiving repeated complaints from residents near Studio 404, Delray Beach officials began devising plans to strengthen its noise ordinance.

City officials argued that residents across the street from Studio 404 bought their homes before the bar opened and didn’t expect the type of noise there is by the bars farther east along Atlantic Avenue.

The city, however, has also tried expanding its footprint farther west on Atlantic Avenue to revitalize that downtown area. The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency gave Studio 404 about $66,000 in 2019 for renovations, including new flooring, walls, lighting, electrical upgrades, painting and kitchen work.

Burns wanted Studio 404 to be afforded the same luxuries that bars and restaurants in the entertainment district are given. He said they were forced to close the patio area at 11 p.m., while noting that businesses with outdoor patios such as Johnnie Brown’s and Tin Roof are allowed to operate until 1 a.m. Delray Beach City Commissioners, however, shot down the idea of expanding the entertainment district during a public meeting last year.

“For Atlantic to be successful, there’s going to have to be some changes,” Burns said. “There are some old-school rules that were put in place that are dated. It’s time for those laws to catch up with all for downtown and be one downtown like it’s supposed to be ‘One Delray.’ It shouldn’t reflect two different Delrays.

“It stems from historically how Delray used to be or how it sometimes feels like it still is, which is separated and segregated versus together.”

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