Matteus Frankovich reinstates live music at Moto Saloon

Matteus Frankovich, owner of Black Market Moto Saloon. Photo by John Robinson. Matteus Frankovich, owner of Black Market Moto Saloon. Photo by John Robinson.

Live music has returned to the corner of Market and Meade, and yet another battle over zoning might be brewing at the Black Market Moto Saloon.

Two months ago, City Council denied Moto Saloon owner Matteus Frankovich a special use permit that would have given his bar and restaurant music hall status and allowed him to host concerts. Despite being shot down, Frankovich has since started putting on acoustic events, and says he’s within his rights according to his certificate of occupancy.

“As it stands, my C of O says, in quotes, ‘No amplified music without an approved special use permit,’ so I have nothing in writing that says I can’t have acoustic shows,” Frankovich said. He’s confident enough that he’s posting notice of the unplugged shows on his Facebook page and in this paper.

But Charlottesville Zoning Administrator Read Brodhead said that’s too broad an interpretation, and he intends to make sure Frankovich knows it. The city ordinance defining restaurants says music has to be incidental to the business’ primary operation, said Brodhead.

“If I went down there and everyone was sitting at the tables eating their dinner and listening to someone play acoustic guitar, O.K.,” he said. “But if we go down there and there’s a basket of pretzels and that’s it and everyone’s listening to the show, I’d say ‘No.’”

Noise ordinance violations finally pulled the plug on late-night parties at Belmont’s Bel Rio in 2010, but Brodhead said the Moto Saloon issue hinges on that zoning language, “and I intend to enforce it,” he said.

City Councilor Dave Norris—the sole vote in favor of Frankovich’s music hall application back in October—had a different opinion. Norris said that in his “very clear understanding” of the city code, amplification is what triggers the need for a special use permit.

“It was brought up several times in the course of that whole discussion about how he was allowed to have unamplified concerts,” said Norris. “I don’t imagine that would be a problem. I hope he gets a good turnout and it generates some business for him.”

Bill Emory, a resident of Woolen Mills —home to the most vocal opponents of Frankovich’s bid for a music permit—said it would bother him if people were disturbed by noise at night, but “as long as they’re functioning as a restaurant or bar, I think everyone is fine with that.”

So far, Frankovich said he’s had no complaints about the revival of live music at Moto Saloon. “The fact of the matter is, our music never bothered the neighbors,” he said, and a sound test showed he wasn’t violating noise restrictions. He plans to hold his ground. “We’re going to continue to have dance parties, special events, acoustic music,” he said.