A battle is revving up in Clearwater pitting bikers against police, neighbors, and a local business. Neighbors say the roar from motorcycle engines and booming bass is waking them up at all hours of the night.
It's happening at the Sunoco station, 3130 Gulf to Bay Boulevard, on the north side of the Bayside Bridge that backs up to the Tradewinds Condos, but it could happen in any neighborhood.
Clearwater Police say it’s been a big problem. There have already been 43 trespassing calls, 32 noise complaints, and 6 reckless vehicles so far this year.
All sides say they’re working to find a peaceful solution.
“A little quiet in the middle of the night would be helpful,” says neighbor Steve Bushey.
It's this rumble of bikes gathering at the Sunoco station that neighbors next door like Bushey say they hear all night long. “11, 12, 1, 2, 3, 4 in the morning,” says Bushey.
It's impacting the lives of so many neighbors that the numbers to call to complain are posted in the condo's clubhouse.
“We as a group here collectively complain to Sunoco, and they've obviously taking some action,” says Bushey.
Bikers insist they're paying customers. “We get harassed by the cops saying we can't stay here. We're not staying here. We come here to buy things. We come to get fuel, and they're harassing us, and it's not fair,” says Michael Carlano.
“I'm pumping fuel officer, but I'm about to go get a drink,” says a biker to an officer. The officer says, “But you can't leave your bike here, you're blocking the pump.”
Dozens of bikes lined up along the fence. The station says the problem is they're hanging out too long, blocking traffic, and disturbing neighbors.
“There's no law that you have a right to stay here for a period of time once you make a purchase,” the officer tells bikers.
“They should not discriminate against everyone, because of the actions of a few. We have rights to shop here just like they have rights to refuse us. If I'm doing nothing wrong, I don't want to be put into the classification of those biker people that come here and do wrong,” says biker Erin Latham.
The station owner tells 10News WTSP that he’s trying to keep customers and neighbors happy.
“As a neighborhood convenience store, Sunoco APlus is always looking out for our customers and local residents, and often we must strike a delicate balance between the two. We have received a number of complaints from neighbors in recent months about noise generated by customers remaining on our property well after they have purchased fuel and/or merchandise or used our facilities. In response, our security staff has been asked to enforce our no loitering policy at the station. While we are a retail company that puts our customers first, we will always respect our neighbors and help maintain their quality of life.”
“I only enforce the law. These people have the right to have who they have here, as long as they don't do it based on race, color, creed or religion,” says Clearwater Police Lt. Richard Harris. “They’re doing it based on motorcycles,” says one biker. “That's not one of the four things I just said,” replies Lt. Harris.
“The presence of the police has made a difference, we see them chase them off every once in a while,” says Bushey.
Some bikers say they understand neighbors’ concerns and hope to silence the problem. “Maybe we should just single out those ones who are trouble making and make them leave,” says biker Manny Ramirez.