The current controversy over live music and second-line vendor permits, which has spurred regular meetings at Kermit Ruffins’ Speakeasy Club, is nothing new.
This past week, I was sent a letter written to the New Orleans Mayor in the mid-1970s regarding the problems that a local music club experienced with crimes committed on patrons near the club, and how ordinances were being enforced unfairly. Crime was a serious issue for this venue, which was trying to present local music Uptown, away from Bourbon Street, so that it could potentially attract more locals. This property was even closed down on a Saturday night by 14 policemen. The club was Tipitina’s, one of New Orleans’ most venerable music clubs and cultural icons. (Moon Landrieu, New Orleans Mayor at the time, never responded to the letter).
There’s always been the potential for dust-ups between clubs and neighbors who say that the music “noise” is destroying their neighborhoods; there’s been a continuing problem between clubs and police who arbitrarily enforce city ordinances.
Two weeks ago, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office called for a moratorium on enforcement of permit violations so that local music venue presenters could have a chance to comply with city rules.
Mimi’s in the Marigny, which has presented live music on Royal and Franklin for 10 years, was closed by co-owner Mimi Dykes because of her fear she was out of compliance with city permits regarding noise—this, despite the fact the bar uses noise-deadening window treatments at Mimi’s Upstairs, where live music plays and DJs (notably Soul Sister) work regularly. Mimi also has regular noise decibel readings to make sure she’s in compliance.
Dykes went back to business as usual only to get in hot water again after last weekend, when a neighbor complained about the loud noise coming from Mimi’s at 1 a.m. Interestingly, Mimi’s Upstairs shuts down its music at midnight, so live music and DJs got a bad rap from the neighbors because the noise didn’t come from live music. It apparently came from a jukebox downstairs. There were also “party buses” in the neighborhood that evening—is she supposed to manage street traffic too?
I wonder if the city is now going to ban jukeboxes in local bars, or singing on your front porch.
I also wonder if this neighbor was in the ‘hood 10 years ago when Mimi’s opened and started presenting live music and DJs. I seriously doubt it. If the neighbor bought a house near Mimi’s, weren’t they aware that Mimi’s was a bar?
Frankly, I wouldn’t buy a house across from a bar and then expect total quiet at night. This means that noise complainers would always have a real problem with living in places like the Bywater or the Marigny and especially the Quarter, or pretty much anywhere in New Orleans, because bars will be bars, and they are likely to have jukeboxes, people milling outside and a few rowdies. Some are even likely to have live music. Horrors!
If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. If you can’t stand noise, music, or traffic at night, then move to an area in the suburbs that don’t have these sorts of establishments.
People, most of New Orleans is an urban area. There’s a bar or a restaurant on practically every corner. I am sick to death of the “uptight fringe” complaining about what’s probably gone on in their neighborhoods for 100 years before they decided to move there. What gives them the right to change the New Orleans that we know and love—the reason why most people want to live here?
I believe the people who make the most noise about noise are in the vast, vast minority. But they are in a position of making themselves heard due to connections to city council members or their staffs. Or they can engage attorneys like the self-appointed noise pollution king/plaintiff attorney Stuart Smith, who’s made it his crusade to keep New Orleans as noise-free as your average everyday suburb. Smith’s firm has no problem suing multiple entities in town whenever it comes to noise and music from bars. inI don’t even know if he’s that serious about making things better for all New Orleans residents (unless they’re his clients and they want to keep noise levels below what you can reasonably expect in a city that lives to party–and enjoy music). Maybe it’s a game for him because he has enough money to play political games to get what he wants. He’s a lawyer, most of whom like—and are programmed—to win.
Smith is smart and he’s a canny operator. He also seems to know that there’s money to be made from relatively well-off clients who want to shut down music…or even jukeboxes. I would imagine that if he so desired, he could probably do his work pro bono. He’s wealthy enough via his class action lawsuit work to engage a public relations firm (The Brylski Company, a well-known political player and political publicity firm), and to create a website and a Facebook page (both claiming to promote music vs. noise) to further the fringe agenda to stop the “noise.”.
Give most of the citizens in New Orleans a voice and a vote in the noise issue, and I think they would probably come down in favor of keeping their neighborhood bars, joints, restaurants, music clubs and neighborhood celebrations just like they are. After they try to squelch the culture of the city in the Quarter, Marigny and Bywater, Smith and the Loony Fringe will want to shut down Mardi Gras, the French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest: just too much “noise.”