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Council upholds Reno Axe live entertainment permit, moves closer to ADU decision

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Reno City Council members on Wednesday heard an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of a conditional use permit for Reno Axe to provide live entertainment Thursday through Sunday from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. 

The appeal was filed by Morten Homme, a nearby resident who believed that allowing live entertainment would cause harm to individuals living in the area. In his appeal, Homme said that for the past eight years, he and other residents have been “repeatedly woken from [their] sleep at night by intoxicated, disorderly, loud patrons; shouting, screaming, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, coupled with verbal and physical alterations on many occasions.” 

Homme said in the past the disruptions were due to patrons of The Stick Sports Lounge, which faced Sierra Street across from The Palladio condominium tower. The bar closed in November 2023 but had been granted the same permit as Reno Axe, and hosted live DJ entertainment until 3 a.m. 

Homme added that the issue isn’t 24-hour bars but the live entertainment late into the night and the crowd of people it often brings.

A number of Palladio residents opposed approval of the conditional use permit when it was considered by the planning commission.

Reno Axe, 100 N. Sierra St., is less than 100 feet from the Palladio’s condos and two other buildings with multi-family units. Conditions of the permit require the business to help mitigate noise and activity concerns, including restricting sound levels to 65 decibels, restricting any live entertainment after 11 p.m. to the basement of the building, no outdoor speakers after 10 p.m. and keeping exterior doors closed after 9 p.m. 

Palladio resident Morten Homme speaks at the March 27, 2024 Reno City Council meeting supporting his appeal of the planning commission’s conditional use permit approval for Reno Axe.

“The residents’ concern is due to the eight-year experience with Sticks sports bar … and that’s not to say that Reno Axe will result in the same experiences, but it is out of the lived experiences that our concerns are based,” Homme said. “Plus, it looks like The Sticks is coming back now as Dubs sports lounge, according to the marquis on the building.”

City planner Carter Williams said two other businesses within a two-block radius already operate with similar special use permits. 

Homme said the main issue is that the Reno Police Department in the past did not respond to calls regarding drunk and disorderly conduct in a timely manner. 

“Timely police intervention is not likely for drunk and disorderly conduct,” Homme said. 

When he purchased his condo nearly fifteen years ago, Homme said the area was quiet at night, and businesses closed by 11 p.m., allowing him and other residents to achieve a good night’s sleep. That all changed, he said, around 2017 when The Stick received a live entertainment license, allowing it to remain open until 3 a.m. 

“The area around [the condo] was no longer quiet at night, and as a result, the eight-year nightmare of disturbing the peace,” Homme said.

Since that time, he added, renters have left the condo building due to the noise issues, and prospective renters and buyers want to avoid taking up residence. 

“I don’t want to punish the business for the things that we need to be doing as a city to help keep our city clean and safe.”Council member Kathleen Taylor

Homme said there were also RPD patrols in previous years, but they no longer occur. He added that security measures are important but don’t mitigate the issues because patrons are then evicted from the premises onto the street where the noise issues occur. 

“Without a timely response [from RPD], there is no mitigation,” Homme said. 

The permit approved by the city’s Planning Commission for Reno Axe also requires the business owners to submit a security plan to mitigate any issues arising from the extended hours of live entertainment. 

Homme said he and Reno Axe owner Phil Frayssinoux have tried to resolve some of the concerns. 

“We both basically want reactive police response when we need them,” Homme said. “And most importantly with Reno Axe and The Palladio residents, we want to be good neighbors to one another.”

Reno Axe General Manager Alex Groden said the business prides itself on being the “best and most secure bar in town thanks to the quality of our management team and meticulously trained staff.” He cited a 100% clean record with police stings and random compliance checks.  

Frayssinoux said the purpose of the live entertainment permit was to include a small dance floor and karaoke area in the basement. 

Reno Police Chief Kathryn Nance said it’s true that RPD responds to high-priority calls first, but said that the downtown Reno ambassador night team was deployed about a month ago, and Reno PD is in the process of reevaluating how they handle deployment and resources. 

Council member Kathleen Taylor said it wouldn’t be fair to deny Reno Axe a permit due to a failure of the city. 

“I don’t want to punish the business for the things that we need to be doing as a city to help keep our city clean and safe,” she said. “People need to be able to sleep, and people need entertainment. What do you [Nance] need from us to make everybody live in peace?”

Kathryn Nance, Reno's next police chief.
Kathryn Nance, Reno Police Chief

Nance said they first need to know the problem is happening, and said police, code enforcement and the business license office need to be informed as soon as issues begin. 

“There’s a few bars that are problem bars as of late so what we then do is try to put all of our teams together … and we go out as a group and do bar inspections, we see how they’re performing, at that point in time we probably identify a lot of other information so we have a complete picture,” she said. “Where people get frustrated is that it takes us a little while to put this together.” 

Council member Naomi Duerr said that while she approves of the permit for Reno Axe, she is very concerned with the issues surrounding the appeal, as Reno is supposed to be a 24-hour city, and therefore “we really need to understand what we’re doing downtown.” 

Council members voted 6-1 in favor of upholding the planning commission’s approval of the permit with Council member Jenny Brekhus voting no.

City closer to approving ADUs

Reno City Council members also heard an update on the results of a resident survey on whether accessory dwelling units (ADU) should be allowed in Reno. 

More than 2,000 people took the survey, with 68% of participants responding that ADUs should be allowed in the city, and another 16% responding they should be allowed but only in certain neighborhoods. 

Survey-takers said their biggest concern with ADUs was parking. The units being used as short-term rentals and lot size were also cited as concerns. 

Council member Devon Reese said he was favorable toward ADUs, but said he does not believe it will “be a panacea to solve all our housing woes.” He added that he would like to see regulations based on neighborhoods. 

Council member Jenny Brekhus said she thought the survey should have had more specificity. She also said that she would like to see a requirement for parking and a minimum size for ADUs of 850 square feet. 

Council member Naomi Duerr said she sees ADUs as an opportunity to help fix family dilemmas, such as elderly parents who need to move closer to their children, or young adult children who cannot find affordable housing but need independence. 

Mayor Hillary Schieve said that while ADUs will not solve the housing crisis, “if the council cares about affordable housing, this is another tool in the toolbox.” 

Next, city staff will continue to attend neighborhood advisory board meetings to gather feedback from the community before sending a recommendation to the city planning commission. 

Other items 

– Council approved $9.5 million for the Yori Avenue Rehabilitation Project, which includes replacing pavement, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, driveways, pedestrian ramps and storm drain inlets. The work consists of two phases: Yori Avenue North from Mill Street to Benson Avenue, which will be completed by Sierra Nevada Construction for $3.07 million, and Yori Avenue South from Plumb Lane to Gentry Way, which will be completed by Spanish Springs Construction for $5.53 million. A contract with Lumos & Associates, Inc. for $758,310 was also approved for construction engineering. 

– A grant of $120,000 was given to the city by Renown Health for the construction of two new Fitness Courts at the Damonte Ranch Park and Brodhead Memorial Park. Council approved an additional $294,000 to cover the rest of the project cost. Similar courts have been installed at Rancho San Rafael, South Valleys Park in Washoe County and Ardmore Park in Sparks.

Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.

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