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.
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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.