Cover Story: Houston's Controversial Noise Ordinance

In this week's cover story, Houston Press examined the effects of the citywide sound ordinance, which Houston City Council passed on October 10.

While a Houston Police Department officer is confident that the noise ordinance task force (whose members aren't required to carry decibel meters) is doing a good job, critics think the law is framed in a language vague enough to allow enforcers wide latitude in interpreting "loud noise."

Since the passing of the ordinance, which dissenters say has flipped from an objective law to a subjective one, venues in the Montrose, the Heights, Midtown, on Washington Avenue and a club outside of Loop 610 have been nailed with fines that can top out at $1,000 per violation.

The Southwest Freeway-area Swagger Lounge and Montrose hipster haven Boondocks have led the way with violations. Swagger has received a total of ten tickets and Boondocks' owner Shawn Bermudez was cuffed and hauled to the HPD central lockup on February 25, even though Bermudez had gone to great lengths to soundproof his Westheimer Road venue.

The Greater Houston Entertainment Coalition Political Action Committee, a grassroots organization that has started a petition in hopes of changing the ordinance, argues that due to the law's fuzzy language, club owners have no way of knowing if they're getting it right or wrong.

Meanwhile, Council Member Ed Gonzalez says that a sweet spot between an active nightlife scene and the rights of property owners could be accomplished through the establishment of entertainment districts. But at the moment, there's no way to tell if that could ever work in anti-zoning Houston.

Read "Sound Effects," this week's feature, for a comprehensive look at the new ordinance and how it's being implemented.

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