There is no doubt that awareness is spreading with lightning speed around the Crescent City about the current City administration’s methods of re-enforcing 30 – 50 year old entertainment venue policies and noise ordinances that have scarcely been enforced at all in the past few decades, nor evaluated and updated to suit current environments and economic contexts. Simultaneously heralded and criticized as the “Cultural Economy Mayor,'” Mitch Landrieu and his administration are facing some tough choices daily when it comes to handling policy surrounding entertainment venue permits, street performance laws, noise ordinances and second line or Mardi Gras Indian traditional practices – essentially the heart and soul of any reason anyone wants to visit or stay in New Orleans.
The summer and early fall of 2012 saw a series of seemingly random city-wide crack-downs on small, independent bars and music clubs (including some coffee houses that offered live music) in New Orleans by the City’s permits department, citing that these businesses, almost all of which have been operating as music venues for 10 years or more, did not “have the proper live entertainment permits.”
Read our “Hot Topic” FRESH piece on this very subject in the May 2013 OffBeat Jazz Fest Bible here.
Rather than approach these venues with reasonable notice and ample help walking through the intensely difficult, confusing and time-consuming red tape that is navigating the the City of New Orleans’ website and permits offices, the City chose to serve citations stating that each venue had to cease live music operations – the bread and butter of these local businesses – immediately until “proper” permitting was obtained. Venues targeted as part of this sweep included the famous Jimmy’s Music Club (still denied its previous permits since trying to re-open after Katrina), the popular Mimi’s in the Marigny, the staple Circle Bar, St. Roch Tavern and more.
Additionally, inconsistent NOPD arrests and harassment of street performers (one of the top favorite aspects of New Orleans cited by visitors and locals alike) for either “loitering” or “performing without proper permits” or for “noise violations” have stirred all varieties of street artists to join stronghold community organizations such as the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO), where they find not only strength in numbers, but useful resources of information on active laws, proposed bills on the table at City Council, permitting protocols, economic development plans underway, and most of all – a voice, a voice with traction other than that of those with the most money to pay the highest power attorneys and the most effective publicists.
Next on circulating dockets as well is the contention that public parks should be “passive,” meaning without amplified music or similar performance entertainment. This is especially odd in cases such as Louis Armstrong Park, which is not only named after the city’s favorite trumpeter, but also houses the historical Congo Square where drumming traditions dating back hundreds of years are still practiced by culture bearers and other community members regularly – not to mention its location in one of New Orleans’ two most famous music neighborhoods, Treme. This does not even begin to cover the controversy over attempts to permit and regulate New Orleans’ oldest, most inherent cultural practice – the second line parade. Yet, the “Jesus Men” that walk the Quarter and surrounding daily and nightly preaching through an amplified microphone box are left alone – inquiring with police about ticketing or quieting them yields this answer, with shrugs: “sorry, 1st Amendment.” Interesting that sacred jazz funerals and Mardi Gras Indian practices are not regarded and treated with the same respect, and rights.
Though MACCNO has plans underway for a legal defense fund for members (Mimi’s, for example, will need serious legal representation in order to combat the four single new neighbors that have recently filed noise disturbance claims through the hire of specialty attorneys against that 10-year music venue veteran and succeeded in [we hope temporarily] silencing all live music at the Marigny venue), as well as other services like the permits and planning teach-ins it has already been hosting, another band of music community advocates has emerged from the fold and has organized a cultural regulation protest for the kick-off night of Jazz Fest 2013.
This group, which includes several members and committee officers of MACCNO among other local activists, has decided it’s time to take this message to streets – New Orleans style! If there ever was an effective way to engage a neighborhood in New Orleans, it is with its signature custom – the second line. And that is exactly what several hundred NOLA artists, musicians, DJs, promoters, residents and supporters will do this Thursday, April 25 beginning at 6:00pm at Mickey Markey Park in the ByWater neighborhood.
READ THE COLLECTIVE’S COMMUNITY CALL-OUT MESSAGE HERE:
Calling all DJs, street musicians, live musicians, music venues, and NOLA citizens who love live music! ENOUGH is ENOUGH! Second Line in Support of Stopping the Crackdown on Music Venues and Musicians!
Show support for St Roch Tavern. Show support for the street musicians and buskers who are hassled while playing music on a daily basis. Show support for Jimmy’s. Show support for keeping The Music at Mimi’s and other music venues! Show support for street musicians, DJs, and bands!
At 6:00pm Thursday, April 25th we will Second Line in the streets in support of New Orleans music and culture. Meet near Mickey Markey Park on the corner of Royal and Piety for a Second Line!
We’ll parade down Royal, pass Mimi’s, head over to St Roch Tavern, and end the route at an location TBD.
Let’s join together – musicians, artists, buskers, and community members – and celebrate NOLA’s vibrant music scene.
Because New Orleans citizens will not stand by and watch attempts to quiet New Orleans’ vibrant music scene.
We’ve seen the Landrieu administration crack down on venues featuring live music and DJs. We’ve seen the absurd verdict handed down to St Roch Tavern by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
We need musicians! Wear costumes, bring an instrument, bring your band, bring your family, and dance in the streets for the love of NOLA culture.
Please share this far and wide!
Thursday, April 25
6pm – 10pm
Meet: Mickey Markey Park
Corner of Royal St & Piety St.
All are welcome!
*Full route info at link above.
Are we experiencing the effects of disaster capitalism?
Where oh where do we find a happy medium between economic prosperity and freedom of cultural expression?
Send us YOUR thoughts on this hot topic! firstname.lastname@example.org SUBJECT: Cultural Regulation
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