Oil and Vinegar

Art and commerce. Like oil and vinegar, they can be shaken together to create something akin to a cultural salad dressing, which can work as a seasoning for New Orleans culture. But just like salad dressing, the two ingredients will slowly but surely separate into two distinct elements unless the bottle is shaken up regularly.

There’s a similar relationship between businesses and residents in the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny and Bywater regarding which element prevails in the mix. Some very vocal and well-funded residents want things peaceful and noise-free. Entertainment businesses—which in some ways are the backbone of the city’s economy—want to be able to provide music and entertainment for their customers.

New Orleanians have chosen to create the ultimate party city as an attraction for visitors, and have elected government who feed off this concept. Can you imagine hearing our mayor, police chief, or residents of the French Quarter publicly bitching and complaining about the noise and debauchery in the Quarter during Mardi Gras or Halloween? No—we’re all used to it and expect it. It’s one of the reasons anyone chooses to live in the Quarter.

The city seems to either be unwilling, unable or incompetent to try to enforce rules and regulations to keep entertainment businesses who cross the line, are bad neighbors and don’t give a damn about the culture, in check. With lack of control, the oil-and-vinegar groups are now separated and at each others’ throats. Like the current crop of Republicans and Democrats, there’s no compromise between the residents in historic areas who don’t want to live in entertainment districts and the businesses who create and host the entertainment.

Attorney Stuart Smith has publicly stated that he is against excess partying in the French Quarter. He has lawsuits pending against several bars in the Quarter that offer music. He is a powerful, well-heeled supporter of anyone who wants to stop the noise—and the music—in the Quarter, such as the VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens. Then there are the businesses who want to blare loud music at their clubs, despite who it might be disturbing. Most of us are in the middle, I think. We like to be able to attend a parade on St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy a few toasts with our friends during the city’s many celebrations. We tolerate the noise and inconvenience because we’ve chosen to live in a city that has the traditions and culture that include music, drinking, partying, eating and 24-hour hanky panky. You deal. If you can’t handle it, you probably should leave.

It’s going to take compromise and a measure of mutual respect: turning down loud music at 2 a.m.; keeping down the party noise; allowing more live music venues in the city where jazz was born; and not constantly kvetching and muscling entertainment venues and musicians to stop the music on the streets entirely.

It’s a two-way street. I get annoyed at people who want it their way or no way.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jan, I read “Oil and Vinegar” with great interest a couple days ago on the Weekly Beat, along with the conversations with Luna and others. I, like you, think there needs to be reasonable limits on volume, but the current attacks on live music are unfair. Can’t find the original comment thread at the moment, where this undoubtably belongs, but I wanted to thank you for having the courage to name some of the rich and powerful individuals hiding behind these supposedly grassroots efforts. Astro turf has come to New Orleans–we have our own homegrown versions of the Koch Brothers. I wonder if there is any way to use social media to shame or otherwise pressure these people to back down. Thanks for standing up for musicians and the culture.

    Spike Perkins