There is no more contentious issue within the local music community right now than the City of Houston's stricter new noise ordinance, which many venue owners, sound engineers and even everyday music fans view as unreasonable and even draconian.
Since the ordinance passed Houston City Council nearly unanimously in October, with only one dissenting vote, the Houston Police Department has not been shy about enforcing it, handing out a number of citations and even arresting one Montrose bar owner last month.
Now hundreds of people interested in the issue are using social media to fight the ordinance by joining the Facebook group with the somewhat cumbersome title "Houston Coalition of Venues, Sound Men, Bands, and DJ's" (sic). More than 1,300 people have joined the group since it started in late January.
The group's wall reads like a combination of Seinfeld-esque airing of grievances and a step-by-step account of a grass-roots organizing campaign from the beginning. It's littered with both enlightening and alarming comments such as these:
From what I have read it seems that the musicians are allowing the city to frame the argument against this ordinance, and that is leading you to try and negotiate a settlement in which you will give up a very important right we all have. When is it permissible in a court of law to allow someone to be charged with a violation of the law without any proof of the violation?
Has anyone addressed the other aspect of this ordinance?? Abuse by the community, as they now know they can frivolously call on questionable complaints and know they will create a nuisance to the businesses that they may have "personal" issues with more than actual issues with noise. Speaking with a lot of club owners, it tends to be a particular individual that sets out to use the law as an attack on the said business. One instance, the perpetrator left his windows open so he could hear the noise, and would come outside of his premise to further his claim on Richmond.
I was just thinking... when I have 500 people in my back yard and sound blaring, we angled the speakers skyward a bit to prevent sound from traveling out into the neighborhood so much, and it worked well. People in the yard heard fine, but as you got a few feet away from the property line, it was much harder to hear it. I kinda wonder if this would work inside a building.
It's no different than moving into a house that's next to an airport.... you cant expect to make the airport control its noise just because you get tired of hearing planes after a while. Why should someone be allowed to do the same to music venues
Hey Leafblower guy: don't you know about the sound ordinance? Or does it only apply to "normal people" who work 9 to 5? My sleep isn't as important as normal people's, and leaf blowing is such a crucial element to the economy and quality of life. Why aren't I calling the cops?
Some business owners such as Mariana Lemesoff of AvantGarden, which has had several visits from HPD since the ordinance passed, have been very active on the page, and used it to promote events such as a fundraiser Monday night at AvantGarden. So has the Greater Houston Entertainment Coalition, which has solicited donations on the group page as well as regularly updating its own site. The GHEC is hosting its own meeting Tuesday, March 20, at Fitzgerald's.
Of course the comments and rhetoric on the page tend to be a little one-sided, but there is also a documents section that compiles several petitions, meeting agendas and letters between the GHEC and various city officials. We promise you, it's more interesting than that dry language makes it sound.
All in all, the discussion on the group is entertaining enough if you don't have a stake in what's going on at local bars and music venues right now. But it's required reading if you do.
"Houston Coalition of Venues, Sound Men, Bands, and DJ's" Facebook group with the somewhat cumbersome title "Houston Coalition of Venues, Sound Men, Bands, and DJ's"on Facebook