Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution: Proposed Houston Noise Ordinance Would Ticket Venues Without The Use Of Sound Meters

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It's God's honest truth...
If you like your music loud -- legally loud -- you might think about heading to City Council this week.

The council will be considering revisions to the city's noise ordinance, the most controversial of which is a provision that says police can hand out tickets even if they don't have a sound meter to record violations. Imagine getting a speeding ticket from a cop, merely because you look to be going fast...

How that's supposed to hold up in court is another matter, but that won't stop the cops from shutting down a show or party.

People like Omar Afra of the Free Press are urging residents to attend the open council meeting tomorrow to express their concerns. The actual vote on the ordinance will probably be put off for at least a week, but you can still make yourself -- wait for it -- heard. (Noise-ordinance fun with the language!!)

Afra paints a pretty dire picture.

Under the proposed revisions, someone could potentially end the music and dancing at the beloved Greek Festival with a single phone call. A downtown resident could stop a world-touring music artist at International Festival despite the fact that they have a sound permit issued by the City. Historic venues like Rudyard's, Fitzgerald's, and Last Concert, who have hosted myriad touring musical acts of the highest caliber, could be a thing of the past. Local musicians would be left with few if any places to perform. On a smaller but just as important level, family events like Quinceanaras and weddings which are often based around music would be stifled

Add places like Super Happy Fun Land with their all-day noise shows to the list of possibly endangered haunts.

Tickets without meters does put a lot of power into cops who can make arbitrary rulings on what's too loud. The music in question has to have a big bass component, by the way, so bass players beware.

Afra notes that the technology is readily available to make accurate readings but the city may not want to shell out the thousands of dollars they cost. Would each patrol car have one? Would there be a sound ordinance team? Afra also adds that there needs to be an actual threshold for bars and clubs to work with, not just a vague complaint.

Afra took over popular music venue Fitzgerald's about a year ago, and since it's revitalization he's seen it's White Oak locale become a new Houston hotspot. Christian's Tailgate, BB's, D'Amico's, and Tacos A Go-Go are just a few new residents on the block since last year.

Clubs and bars would essentially need a permit to even have music playing, like how a restaurant needs a food permit. If they get two complaints, they wouldn't be able to host live music for one year.

Afra's hope is that the cops responding to the calls will see the futility in the law and not be as stringent as they could be, if it even passes. But then again, the city is strapped for cash. They have already been cracking down on various, seemingly petty, ordinances at local restaurants.

One aspect of the proposed ordinance no one (in their right mind) can argue with: Leaf-blowing machines can't be used before 8 a.m., as opposed to the current 7 a.m.

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10 comments
Dave Steadman
Dave Steadman

Rock and Roll is meant to play loud. If you think the music is too loud then plug your ears.  Seriously folks????  How about this shut your crying baby up in public. How about you put your barking dog in muzzle. How about everyone with a bass speaker in their trunk that is no smaller than bail of hay, switch to set of head phones!  All of these things that bother me and many others I am quite sure. I am quite certain that there are people that find the things that I mentioned much more annoying that loud music from an isolated venue. Lets talk about those venues for a moment. These Venues have employees working there earning money and paying taxes. These same venues also generate revenue, alot of revenue, All this revenue the goverment collects taxes on. I know I do not stand alone in saying this but if Judas Priest gets slighly muted it just wouldnt sound the same. I wouldn't go. I happen to like headbanging and rocking out to the loud music. Turn the music down??? Stupid Stupid , just plain dumb to even consider this option. This will not help any business except the headphone business.  I LOVE IT LOUD!

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

Omar Afra needs to talk with his attorney before he opens his mouth and throws out the baby with the bath water.

Noise regulations are old news and have been old news for twenty years except in Houston.

The deal breaker for noise blasting from outdoor urban venues has nothing to do with 'police tickets' and everything to do with the inability of babies to sleep after 8 PM - 9PM in homes and apartments near an outdoor urban venue.

A private civil lawsuit against a club or venue in front of a jury - especially a federal jury - because an urban family and their babies cannot pursue happiness due to noise from a concert or club is no joke and there is no defense that works, Mr. Afra.

Please, nobody wants to open their mouth in City Hall Council Chambers this month and say they don't care about babies being unable to sleep because of Rock & Roll music!

That's sure enough throwing out the baby with the bath water for those of us who love popular music.

We're eventually going to join the rest of the civilized urban world here in H-Town and turn off outdoor concerts or bands near residential areas sometime between 8 PM and 9 PM..

Just bite the bullet and be done with it.

Mr. Omar Afra needs to concern himself with the number of parking spaces for clubs as that issue is on City Council's agenda also, as it should be.

Mr. Afra knew or his attorney knew, parking slots was a huge issue in neighborhoods when he took over Fitzgerald's.

Peace!

GAC
GAC

If we didn't have better things to worry about in this city. Isn't Mayor Parker pretty much a Liberal??? Are they not against this kind of thing? Why is this now even being brought up??? In Dallas this led to even more condos and the shutting of many top music venues in the area. Totally innapropriate and a waste of time. Not to mention the already broad stoke the police already have. Just giving them one more tool to take away your liberties.

josh
josh

To be fair, no one that lives by Last Concert is ever sober enough to call the cops.

Marc Brubaker
Marc Brubaker

Gary, for someone who's often a rational and reasonable commenter, this is pretty out of character. I hope it's sarcasm. Either that, or you seem to have an agenda with Mr. Afra.

That blockquote is from a post on the FPH site written by GunsandTacos (Jay), by the way, not Omar.

How are you not concerned with the power this places into police hands? How does this not bring to mind the cop that went on the tasering spree at Walter's when he rode in on his high horse and tried to shut down that Two Gallants show? This is about money and power.

As Jude asks, to what residential areas are you referring? What venues are there? And which of them are "outdoor urban venues?" Save for the occasional festival (which has to acquire a sound permit and end early enough to meet the noise ordinance anyway), Miller Outdoor Theater (not applicable), Cynthia Woods (which is not in the city's jurisdicition) and Last Concert (not residential) are the ones that come to mind.

Jude Dwyer
Jude Dwyer

Why on earth would an "urban family and their babies" be living next to a nightclub?  Why doesn't the family live in a residential area and why isn't the nightclub in a part of town designated for late night activities?  Oh wait, this is Houston.

Pretty sure you're familiar with Houston's lack of zoning code yet you speak of "residential areas".  Where are they?  I have been in Houston for a decade and as far as I can tell the majority of land inside the loop is a hodge-podge of businesses and residences.  I cannot think of a single bar, nightclub or venue (except maybe the Wortham, Toyota Center etc.) that is NOT in an area that could be considered residential.  There are reasons why there is no zoning in Houston and there are plenty of people that plan on keeping it that way.

As a parent I can certainly relate to the need for peace and quiet.  As a parent I am also NOT going to go live next door to a nightclub or bar in Montrose or Midtown.  However I do feel for people that have lived 5+ years along Washington as they did not choose to move into an area known for nightlife. (It is my understanding though that it is one of the few areas that has continued to see an increase in property value - can anyone confirm?)

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that many people choose to move to Montrose & Midtown etc. because of access to bars, clubs & restaurants.  If a family (or anyone) moves there for the character & flavor of the neighborhood but feels that after 9pm it should turn into Katy, then they are either incredibly dumb or very selfish.

P.S. EVERYTHING about this proposed change to the Noise Ordinance smells of MONEY.  We are to believe this is really all about some mythical babies and the 'rents getting to sleep at night!  I haven't laughed so hard since Eddie Murphy's "Raw".

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

Whatever you say Marc,

But lets not turn this fight into a war where the reputation of popular music itself is sullied and the importance of music for young people is trivialized.

For those of us who are advocating for and nudging our local politicians to open up air conditioned venues such a The Astrodome for rock concerts we need the support of the general public. Especially if H-Town can gets its act together and electronically link together several large concerts across the U.S. or perhaps overseas. After all, the only contribution we have made in Afghanistan that has been universally accepted by their huge population of young people over the last ten years and Trillions of U.S. Dollars spent is ... Rock & Roll Music. Kabul Afghanistan Rock & Rollhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v... Cops with or without noise meters and the old worn-out zoning arguments are worthy of serious debate in Toledo perhaps but I would like to see us in Houston think differently and expand the market for popular music by a factor of ten!

Peace!

Marc Brubaker
Marc Brubaker

1. Plenty of air conditioned venues in Houston.2. Anyone big enough to play an Astrodome-sized venue already has three options in town (Toyota, Reliant, MMP) and those not quite stadium-sized have Reliant Arena, Cynthia Woods, Jones Hall, Verizon, Arena Theatre, Warehouse.3. Most venues in town operate at a completely reasonable levels and don't draw criticism or complaints.

But the most important and only real item is the following: Cops arbitrarily writing tickets for unverifiable offenses is a concern to any city, anywhere, any time.

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