Killing the Goose

Front page of the Times-Pic (counting down to semi-oblivion) today:

Live music permit crackdown unplugs two popular bars.”

The Circle Bar on St. Charles Avenue and Siberia on St. Claude have been closed because live music permits hadn’t been obtained by their operators.  This is old news by now, in cyber-world.

Dave Clements and his philosophy of living in New Orleans, owner of the Circle Bar, has apparently made his peace with the city, has applied for permit, citing that his establishment has had live music for 14 years (and he can prove it), and is entitled to continue to operate. Siberia, and many of the other illegally operating clubs in the city may have a more difficult time, since they haven’t been operating as long.

It’s pretty weird and disturbing that the city is cracking down on live music clubs. In a city known for its live music—at least to visitors—it would be a shame to cook the goose that laid the golden egg. Most of the city isn’t zoned for commercial enterprises, including music. It’s primarily residential. However, there are many areas of the city that, while zoned commercial, do not allow live music.

This, I don’t understand. A good example of this is one of my pet peeves, North Rampart Street. Here we have a commercial street—albeit on the edge of the French Quarter—that’s across from a park (with no residents) that can’t host any music clubs. You just can’t get a permit.

The TP story references the plight of Donna’s Bar & Grill, which shut down for over six months. The new operators tried to get a music permit (and did, temporarily) to reopen it as a music club. Neighbors in the Quarter complained, and they had their way, and got the permit revoked.

This is a touchy subject, I know. But I puzzle about why so many people in this city have issues with music. They don’t seem to care that there’s a bar on almost every corner. But if  there’s music being played, well—that’s egregious. I can’t see any problem with allowing music in a bar, any bar, or any restaurant for that matter, if the city requires sound insulation and or closed doors (if appropriate) so that neighbors won’t be disturbed by noise. If you can condone liquor in you neighborhood, then you should be able to “put up with” some music. Bars, yes. Bars with music, hell yes!

You know the old cliché: Music bubbles up from the streets in New Orleans. Well, unless the mayor and city council and residents can come to terms with the fact that music is a key underlying foundation. of our thriving nightlife and hospitality industry, we’re going to keep shooting the goose ad infinitum, and that music won’t bubble no ‘mo…it’ll just drain away.


  • I dearly love New Orleans. It always comes up with new and creative ways to shoot itself in its own foot, however. Instead of “cracking down” on the Circle Bar, the appropriate city agencies should have been bending over backwards to clear an efficient path to a music license.

    I lived in the Quarter for 11 years, mostly on the 900 block of Bourbon Street. It was noisy, it was messy, but I knew what I was getting into and had no complaints (except for the vandalism issues that were mostly the province of drunk assed tourists). I embraced the noise and the mess. How many neighborhoods in America do you have a second line or parade rolling past your front stoop on a regular basis?

    It was worth glueing the rear view mirrors back on my car every once in a while.

  • Music is one of the two prime reasons I come to NOLA, and have 15 – 20 times since 1986. (Food is 1-b!) Haven’t been there in almost 2 months!

    This reminds me of my home town, where yuppies bought condos next to RR tracks and then complained about the noise. I wrote a letter to the local paper that said: “Buying a condo next to railroad tracks and then complaining about train noise is as dumb as buying a condo next to railroad tracks and then complaining about train noise.” Funny, yes but made my point.

    Do away w/ music and people like me will go to Memphis, Austin instead.

  • Anonymous

    Whoever in city government is handling the shutting down of music clubs should be immediately transferred to the department that cleans up weeds and overgrown grass on blighted properties owned by the city. Do something that’s needed, not this nonsense. Jan is absolutely correct about music bubbling up. It should be encouraged. To steal a comment from a different context and apply it to the city we love: New Orleans never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

  • JazzLunatique

    And why do neighbors living in the Quarter or the Marigny always get their way? If you don’t like living in places where music can be played, move the fuck to Lakeview. I get so tired of this baloney sausage about music clubs and such. This city is built on music. If we don’t figure out a way to make it easier, then we might as well be Mobile.

    Can we get the guy who worked out the controversy over Cree McCree’s art/flea market at the Blue Nile to figure this one out.

  • The most disturbing thing I saw last weekend on Frenchman Street are the “party buses” – people dancing and drinking on a gutted bus playing loud hip hop while partiers shout to the people on the street, thus drowning out most of the other pleasant sounds of live music which might otherwise be heard.

    As long as the music isn’t live I guess it doesn’t bother anyone. New Orleans could adopt a new motto, “More drunk people on buses and less live music in the clubs!” or “Come stumble around our streets with a go cup without being annoyed by live music.”