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D.C. Businesses Band Together Against Orange’s ‘Anti-Noise’ Bill

by Tim Regan October 26, 2015 at 3:55 pm 5 Comments

Vincent Orange during committee meetingA number of D.C. bars, restaurants and clubs have organized to fight back against D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange’s proposed Nightlife Regulation Noise Act.

The group, which is called the D.C. Nightlife Hospitality Association and includes 11 representatives from more than two dozen local bars, clubs and restaurants, vows to get loud against the proposed “anti-noise” bill first introduced by Orange earlier this year.

If passed in its current form, Orange’s bill would prohibit D.C.’s restaurants and bars from playing amplified or recorded music in outdoor spaces such as summer gardens and rooftop decks after midnight. The bill would also enact a new “plainly audible” standard for noise measurement that could change the way noise complaints from nearby residents are investigated.

Some residents — particularly those in the D.C. Nightlife Noise Coalition — say the proposed legislation is needed to curb nighttime noise disturbances from local bars and restaurants.

But according to the new association, the bill would set a “standard with which few businesses will be able to comply.” The association’s executive director, Washington Blade columnist Mark Lee, said today in a press release that Orange’s bill is like using a “gigantic oversized flyswatter” to swat a “tiny fly.”

Several members of the association testified before the D.C. Council’s committee on business, consumer and regulatory affairs this afternoon.

“I believe this legislation would take us backwards from the progress our business has spearheaded,” said Matt Weiss, owner of 201 Bar, Union Pub, Barrel, and McClellan’s Retreat. “People understand they live in a city, and being close proximity to open nightlife businesses is part of the deal.”

Will Eastman, co-owner of U Street Music Hall, said, “the overwhelming majority of D.C. residents support local nightlife establishments.”

“The proposed noise bill legislation risks putting our culture and nightlife back a step,” Eastman added. “While there may be a small number of noise problems in the city, the proposed rules are not the best approach.”

“In short, please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” concluded Eastman.

Photo via D.C. Council webstream

  • KibblesAhoy

    I wonder who bribed VO into proposing this legislation.

  • Guy DC

    Why would a bar/club owner find it difficult to comply?? They don’t know how lower the volume on an amplifier? Amplified music outdoors is completely obnoxious in a neighborhood that is residential. And there is no reason for it. Keep the music indoors. It’s not fair to say that everyone who lives in the city should expect to put up with whatever a business owner wants to do.

  • soothsayer

    Endless whining from these late-night establishments. Meanwhile, the reality of their failing and flailing is that the 18-34 demographic has dropped precipitously, and Tinder, Grindr and other dating apps have further cut into their relevance. If anything, they’d learn to eliminate the noise and appeal to the increasingly larger 35-64 demographic of the city. Many of those residents have families that are trying to sleep at night. Maybe you could do something truly innovative and create spaces for them and their children. But, no, these clueless complainers are compensating in all the wrong ways, by adding speakers outside of their walls in an effort to appeal to a shrinking number of young people who aren’t that interested in bar culture. And for those who are — when did being inside become such a burden? It’s not because of the smoking ordinances, because less of the smoke than they did 15 years ago. And yet, 90,000 new District residents over that same period, housed in thousands of mid-rise apartments and condos, bumped up adjacent to the walls of these whining “entitled” noisemakers. You’re right Mr. Weiss, these people do realize they live in a city. So, they don’t typically make lots of noise themselves because it’s annoying and obnoxious to their neighborhoods. Why can’t you and your coalition realize that things have changed. Get used to it. Adapt or die. You share the neighborhood; you don’t own it.

  • Do any of the bar/club owners live in areas where they are impacted by noise from other bars/clubs/restaurants? I’ve lived IN DC (and I mean in the District not a surrounding suburb) since ’78. I know it’s a city and with that comes noise. But so much? So often? Either DC wants to encourage city living or it doesn’t. We should have some rights to peace and quiet enjoyment. Vote for this bill, Mr. Evans .. tho’ I know calls to your office about noise from our n’hood bars and restaurants have fallen on, you should pardon the expression, deaf ears.

  • Washingtonian

    The pathological liars who run these noise-making establishments open up as restaurant fronts with the sole intention of operating as nightclubs. When the put upon neighbors eventually complain, the liars verbally promise to dial down the noise only to return to business as usual within a matter of days. Now that the liars feel they may be held to account, they’re showing their true intentions by resorting to demagoguery to wrest themselves free of any remaining legal bounds.

    These aspiring robber barons feel that they are entitled to the acoustic airspace over their neighbors’ properties. They are essentially airspace squatters who maliciously encroach on neighbors’ property rights. They regularly blast residents with greater-than-industrial levels of sonic and subsonic energy, levels similar to those used by police and military to drive holed-up combatants insane, but in this case directed carelessly against civilians, both women and children. Unlike club goers, who can choose to flee their self-inflicted cacophony at anytime, neighboring residents are imprisoned in a hellish nightmare of noise and vibrations, sometimes from sundown until sunrise. These same residents can’t even sell their properties anymore because their property values have been driven down.

    The DC Noise Regulations make clear what is appropriate behavior by residents and businesses in the District. Many landowners made expensive financial decisions based on these and similar laws, with the expectation that the District would enforce them. Enacting noise regulations and then refusing to uphold them creates an uncertain, chaotic investment environment. Just where are residents supposed to invest in housing if any adjacent plot of land can be unexpectedly transformed into a building-sized subwoofer? And make no mistake, the nightclubs and open rooftops are spreading.

    The DC Noise Regulations limit nighttime noise to 60 dB(A) in commercial zones and 55 dB(A) in all other zones (except for industrial). There are no exceptions for so-called entertainment establishments. The profiteers knew about these laws, but opened up their nightclubs anyway, and the District has chosen to only selectively hold them to account. ABRA clearly has a conflict of interest with regards to the enforcement of the noise regulations. Part of the problem is that the regulation of alcohol has absolutely nothing to do with the regulation of noise, the latter of which can be generated by all sorts of businesses.

    The District’s raison d’etre is the Federal government. Many of the Federal government’s employees reside in and pay taxes to the District. It is insane that the DC council would risk alienating its single greatest source of income over the sociopathic profiteering of a handful of nightclub owners, who are making their living off of low-paid or on-welfare younger folks. If the majority of nightlife operators is already complying with noise regulations, then why is Lee complaining? As with Metro, maybe we need some FBI oversight of the DC executive branch?


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