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Starlite Drive-In cited for noise violation, will continue operation

Town says new speakers installed last year can be heard from 100 feet away

Noise concerns at an iconic drive-in movie theater in Christiansburg are now being taken to the courtroom.

Last weekend, police cited the Starlite drive-in for a noise disturbance. Now the theater says it's hired an attorney to file an injunction against the town on Friday.

Owner Peggy Beasley says the business is still operating with speakers despite being charged last weekend because it's the only way they can make money.

The Starlite Theater is a landmark in Christiansburg. Beasley's family opened it in 1953.

"When daddy was getting ready to pass away he told me keep it open Peggy. There'd be a lot of disappointed people if you were to close it down," said Beasley.

This past year, she says she had to make the tough decision to move away from the traditional in-car speakers.

"It was costing too much money because people would take them, either by accident, just leaving with them, or on purpose for a souvenir, and that just got to be too much, so I opted out of the speakers on the pole and went for the outside speakers," said Beasley.

Beasley says replacing all of the old infrastructure would have cost more than $60 thousand, but as soon as she put the new cheaper equipment in, neighbors on Flint Drive took notice.

"I have had my TV on, and probably louder than most people, and windows shut. I heard something and was like what the heck is going on? It was drowning out the TV, and it was the Starlite," said J.C. Grubb, who lives on Flint Drive near the theater.

Grubb says he's lived behind the theater for around thirty years, and it's never been a problem until now.

"Rated R movies, where there's cursing and everything else... you've got 10, 11, 12, younger kids that are just in their yard, and they're hearing it, you know how some movies are," said Grubb.

Initially, Beasley says she turned the sound down, but says customers were leaving because they couldn't hear.

"I used to sell a thousand hot dogs every weekend. I mean that was constant, and now it's down to less than 500, so yeah, it's hurt the business," said Beasley.

After several visits, Christiansburg Police finally charged the Starlite last weekend.

"I said, you've got a lawyer? That's going to ruin everything," said Beasley.

Now, Beasley says she's planning to file an injunction against the town.

"I've got an attorney, and he's going to file it tomorrow, Friday, so we'll see what happens then," said Beasley.

The town ordinance in Christiansburg states that the noise should not be plainly audible from 50 feet away or more. The town says when police charged the Starlite, they could hear noise from more than 100 feet away. Right now, Beasley is set to be in General District Court on July 11th. Meanwhile, Beasley says the theater will stay open as long as it can, just like has for the last 64 years.