Lunatic fringe strikes again against noise

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!

Way too much noise, here people (apologies to the Noisician Coalition)

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.”


  • Wow…New Orleans took a big hit (musically) with Katrina’s havoc…lost a lot of good musicians who had to go elsewhere. Which…hey, it spread the love to others, but it was certainly a loss for New Orleans. Like you said…why would you want to live IN New Orleans…if NOT for the sensual feast that it is? Amazing music, awesome food, ‘Big Easy” culture… If I am EVER so lucky to live in the Quarter or one of the other hotspots, it’ll be BECAUSE of the music.

  • Some Reason, Please?

    Mary Howell put it much better at the Ruffins meeting when she emphasized that musicians/clubs speak out about their rights, but too often neglect their responsibilities to neighbors…you know, the working people who are trying to get some sleep. Jan, you’re as knee-jerk as the VCPORA, just on the other side of the issue. Plenty of people like music, especially at a neighborhood bar, but not when they’re trying to get some sleep.

    • Sam

      Wow did you ever mis-characterize what Ms. Howell said at that meeting. She explained the law as currently written (mentioning a couple times that it is un-Constitutional), and Jan is right when she says “singing on your front porch” can be perceived as a problem according to that law. The way the law is written now, you in fact COULD get ticketed for singing on your front porch. When you make a comment about music, neighborhood bar and getting some sleep all in one sentence I have to agree again with Jan. Please, by all means, find a quiet place to live–lord knows there are plenty to choose from, but this move to de-electrify music, eliminate brass bands for being too loud, and possibly juke boxes will reduce us to what? Softly strummed guitars or chamber music only?

      As for knee jerk reaction on the part of Jan, please. She mentioned in her piece the issues with Tipitina’s decades ago. Her reaction seems reasonable to me in the “gee didn’t we go through all this before” vein.

      • It blows my mind that people who live in NOLA around live music venues want quiet. Get thee to a gated community with a good early bird special that will allow you to hit the hay at 8.

  • JazzLunatique

    If you don’t like living in a place that has music, there is a neighborhood for you and it’s called Lakeview. Move there. And don’t give me the horseshit that if you leave, then the Quarter/Marigny/Bywater/Treme will lose its sense of place because there is no one living there.. People will move in. They always have, and now they will continue to. As Jan says, don’t expect to move in some place and change things that have been going on for 10/20/100 years.

  • I’d like to make a proposal to anyone who lives anywhere near live music in New Orleans and finds it to be a bother. I have an extremely quiet house in an extremely quiet neighborhood in a community blissfully free of live music in North Georgia. It’s a lovely home which I’m lucky to have, but I would happily trade places with you anytime you’d like to get away.

    In the interest of full disclosure I must warn you that we do have the occasional guitar in a bar, and are plagued with one or two arts events on the square each year . . . but I can give you full warning about those weekends months ahead of time. I can promise you a minimum of 345 days a year that you won’t have to be bothered by music or culture.

    We are only able to come to New Orleans one week a year to have a quick, small taste of the glorious sounds you would like to ban – so, please, instead of fighting or banning it, just come to my house for a week or two where a brass band or second line outside the door are as likely as a unicorn.

    I’m serious – contact me. What is annoying to one may be heaven to another . . . and the peace & quiet is killing me.

  • Debe C.

    TOTALLY AGREE WITH THIS!!! And my Facebook page….Keep the French Quarter Alive (yes, started in response to some of my personal friends that were being targeted by PY) is NOT just about the Quarter anymore….it’s about LIVE music and the fact that if you moved there….you knew it was going on long before you arrived! LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS ARTICLE!!! Debe C….KFQA admin and native of NOLA at heart.

  • Rick Holtsclaw

    Why would anyone in their right mind want to live or visit the filth in New Orleans? I do agree though, if you relocated to the French Quarter, or vicinity, and are opposed to noise, filth, perversion, lunacy, vulgarity, nastiness, then you’ve shot yourself in the foot. You need to move and do it quickly. There are a few places in the United States that directly feeds the gates of Hell, New Orleans is one of those places…LEAVE NOW!

    Rickey Holtsclaw
    Noise Free America

    • Do you write for the Onion? If not and if you’re serious here, like…the moon is for you. I heard it’s real quite.

      • quiet.

        • Jan

          Like I said: “lunatic fringe.” He should stay in Houston, that wonderful city! Here’s his resume:
          Rick Holtsclaw, a 32-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, holds a master’s degree in criminology from the University of Houston. In 2009, in response to the proliferation of illegally-equipped motorcycles, automobiles, and trucks operating freely in Houston, Officer Holtsclaw began to aggressively enforce anti-noise ordinances. Officer Holtsclaw’s vehicular noise enforcement initiative, though completely supported by relevant laws and legal precedent, was met with tremendous resistance by Houston’s city officials and motorcycle noisemakers throughout the United States. Officer Holtsclaw wrote a letter to the Governor of Texas, outlining his efforts to enforce anti-noise ordinances and the resistance he encountered.

    • JDSept

      Gates of Hell? Ya gotta be kidding me. Everybody knows the gates of Hell have to be in a quiet place because nobody is rushing to go there.

  • JDSept

    Music in New Orleans? Shocked I tell you, I am shocked. This must be something new brought about by some communist illegal conspiracy. New orleans has always been known as a quiet place where one goes for their final resting place in life. Keep up the noise, it keeps me alive.

  • KVT

    Here’s the thing, if you are planning to buy or rent a home, you need to make sure that the neighborhood is right for you before you do it. This whole argument is like someone buying a house by the airport and then complaining about the noise. If you KNOW there is a place next door or down the street that has live music, and YOU KNOW it can get loud, and if that is going to bother you….. live somewhere else! There are plenty of nice quiet streets in town, live on one of them. Don’t go trying to change the neighborhood to suit your tastes, when you knew it wasn’t right for you to begin with.

    Unfortunately this city is being over run with people moving here to live in some fantasy land artsy bohemian dream, paying way too much for houses, and then getting upset because they don’t fit in with the neighborhood. These people need to keep in mind, they made a choice to move here, we didn’t make them move here, and we shouldn’t have to adjust our lifestyle to accommodate them. As to those people who were born and raised here who complain, they should be ashamed of themselves for trying to trash the culture of the place that raised them.

  • bizworldusa

    Wow! New Orleans took a big hit with Katrina’s havoc…lost
    a lot of good musicians who had to go elsewhere. Which…hey, it
    spread the love to others, but it was certainly a loss for New Orleans……