Well, They’re At It Again

After all these years, and all the protestations about how New Orleans is a “city of music,” the “birthplace of jazz.” It’s happening all over again. Our new NOPD chief, the new District C (French Quarter) councilperson, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, and the Quarterite Music Abolition Team is at it again.

It’s a never-ending battle between musicians and certain residents in the French Quarter. Today our new chief of police, Ronal Serpas—who’s spent the last few years in Nashville—is cracking down on live music in New Orleans. Last I heard they were trying to close down alcohol sales in bars at midnight in Nashville, and allow guns in bars because, as the sponsor of the bill said “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Maybe in Nashville!

According to Serpas and 8th District Commander Major Edwin Hosli, the NOPD has received “numerous complaints from the residents of the Quarter” via NOMPAC concerning street musicians. Kevin Allman of Gambit has kept up with the news with several posts on this, and I’m upset and ashamed to tell you that it’s the same-old, same-old.

Apparently the To Be Continued Brass Band was being videoed last night on the corner of Canal and Bourbon Street, when the NOPD stopped the activity because of the “noise ordinance” which says that it is unlawful for anyone to perform any street entertainment on the street or sidewalk of Bourbon Street from the uptown side of Canal Street to the downtown side of St. Ann Street between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.  Can someone please tell me why it’s not OK to have street musicians playing during these hours on Bourbon Street, for pity’s sake? It’s not like there’s not a huge amount of noise—and I don’t mean music—on Bourbon Street during these hours. If you choose to live on or near Bourbon Street, and don’t expect to hear some music or noise, then you really should move to the suburbs. Please.

Oh yeah, it’s also illegal for persons to play musical instruments on public rights-of-way between the hours of 8 p.m. and  9 a.m. anywhere in the city.

What kind of idiocy are the people who complain about street music going to pull next? Why haven’t they cracked down on the non-live “music” on Bourbon Street?

This is an ordinance that is patently unfair to local musicians. It’s unfair to the people who come to New Orleans who expect to experience real music here. It’s destructive to our musical culture and the role the French Quarter plays in our musical heritage. We always brag that music “bubbles up from the streets” when it’s convenient, but in reality…? When the music is on the street, the vocal and well-heeled minority in the Quarter hold sway with the police and politicians–especially when the police chief and councilwoman-in-charge are newbies.

The next NOMPAC a community meeting will be held on July 8, 2010 at 6 p.m. at the Maison Dupuy Hotel, 1001 Toulouse Street. If you’re a musician or a New Orleans music lover, and you’re not at this meeting to protest this, then shame on you. If you don’t make a real big noise and correct this injustice, you get what you deserve. We need a new ordinance on the books, something that the entire community participates in formulating. You wanna be more like Nashville? Ban street music, and that’s what you’ll get. New Orleans as the new Nashville–what a thought!

How about let’s ban open bar doors, strippers, college kids and foot traffic on Bourbon Street too? That might calm the residents down. That way it would be as quiet as a Metairie suburb. Why pick on musicians?

While we’re at it, let’s ban any music that’s not live New Orleans music on Bourbon Street. Now there’s an ordinance I could go for! Discuss amongst yourselves…

  • I would like to see evidence of these numerous complaints, with the complainants names redacted of course.

  • I agree. the music is the major reason why I worked so hard to move to New Orleans. Come on folks, this it the city's BIG attraction. You cannot really even get much good live music in the French Quarter. The music that blares out of bars on Bourbon Street is crap. That is not New Orleans. Tourists probably think that is New Orelans music! God help us. Rather than finding ways to restrict music further, we should be finding ways to encourage more good live music. Nothing after8:00 PM? Come on. Seriously?? If you do not want any noise, move to Metairie. It is like people who buy houses right by an airport and then complain because they hear planes.

  • Maybe they should just ban all music that isn't live, local New Orleans music . . . or just ban anything that isn't jazz on Bourbon Street! Now that's an ordinance I could support. 🙂

  • Yesterday, I wrote to the NOPD Chief, Kristin Gisleason Palmer, and others:

    'I have just been made aware of an 8:00 PM curfew on street music on Bourbon and Frenchmen Streets. We live in Atlanta and come to New Orleans several times a year, gladly spending money in your hotels, restaurants, and shops, because we Love the Music of your City. Please, value the unique treasure of your musicians and treat them with the honor and respect the deserve. Street music is a huge part of your incredible culture and a big reason why we come. We look forward to our next visit to your beautiful City in August for the Satchmo Festival. The street music on Frenchman during the Festival's Club Strut is a highlight for us, as is the second line on the Sunday morning of the Festival. I will continue to stay aware of this issue.'

  • Drummingbunny

    New Orleans Council District C encompasses Algiers, Bywater, Esplanade Ridge, French Quarter, Marigny, St. Roch, Treme’, and parts of Faubourg St. John. The most valuable parts of the City… I can understand the new NOPD chief Ronal “Look, a donut!” Serpas being from Nashville and not quite getting it since he's only been here for so long and is a policeman (no offense to policemen) but, Kristin Palmer, who just had her 15 seconds of fame on “Treme” and is from Rebuilding together New Orleans seems to encompass what Hypocritical means… I voted for this chick… Dammit… Apparently they must have it backward… I am hoping that what her and the new guy meant to do is ban “non-live music” on Bourbon Street?

  • I'm from N. O. but now live in Memphis, so I need to correct something in Jan Ramsey's comment about alcohol laws in Nashville and cutting off sales at midnight. That actually wasn't Ronal Serpas' idea. It was proposed back in February, statewide in TN by a Republican representative named Curry Todd. Todd represents the Memphis suburb of Collierville. Affluent, decidedly conservative. Remember, around here the Baptists have a lot of political clout, and they'd love to keep us from drinking, dancing, and gambling, even in our living rooms. Collierville has stricter beer and closing time laws than anywhere else in the Memphis metro; reputation as a speed trap. Todd's proposal got lots of press across Tennessee, then mercifully died out. I realize that in New Orleans you guys don't even know what closing laws, “last call,” and dry counties are. I've been in Memphis 35 years and still find the idea of having to go to a “package liquor store” to buy anything stronger than beer ridiculous and primitive, but then I'm from New Orleans. Actually, in Tennessee, the bars can stay open til 3 AM, as far as the state is concerned, and here in Memphis, there was a special waiver passed for Beale Street to allow the bars to stay open till 5 AM. That actually didn't work out – frankly the bar owners found they had more troubles with late-night drunken patrons and weren't making any money- so Beale now “closes” at the traditional Tennessee closing hour of 3 AM.

    I am weighing in on this because I still have musician friends in N. O. who've run afoul of the noise ordinance. Now that street musicians have been immortalized in “Treme” as part of the unique culture, somebody wants to make that go away? At a point where it looks like one of New Orleans' big drawing cards – seafood – is about to be wiped out? Huh?


  • Orleansnj aka Michele

    I think this just stinks – but lets put blame in all of the right places. The ordinance is the issue at hand. Clearly the ordinance does not reflect the needs and desires of the community as it stands now as all of the comments here, on facebook, in various other venues reflect.
    The unfortunate reality is that if Ronal Serpas and the NOPD did not enforce it, he/they would not be enforcing the law. If he didn't enforce the law, the residents would be pissed. period. I agree, I would love to see how many complaints and all of that – but the reality is – it's on the books.

    So – the right thing to do here is get the law re-written so that it reflects the needs and desires of the community – NOW – not from years ago etc. People, we are the ones with all of the power – we need to come together, be heard and get it done. This applies to everything. I no longer live in New Orleans at the moment, (will return soon) but I think that Jan is 100% right, that the first step is to protest and get our voices heard, the next is to take action and get this ordinance re-written or introduce a new ordinance that more accurately reflects the needs of the people and maybe that can be part of the discussion at the meeting on July 8, 2010

  • Dgold26760

    Been to NOLA an average of 3 times per year for the last 12 years. Stay at a boutique hotel in the Quarter. Never eat at the chains- can do that at home. Look forward to patronizing the street musicians some who have gone on to great notoriety. Why are the politicos always harassing the musicians? Tuba Fats was a mediator for the musicians with the police at Jackson Square. Don't drive us away with your shortsightedness!
    DR Hodges-St. Louis, MO.

  • Ivan Patrick HALLORAN

    My name is Ivan Halloran, fron Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, ad I am a Tradd Jazz presenter on our local Community Radio Station 97.9 Valley FM and I am aghast, at the high handed attitude of your Police and Council Rep. in relation to live jazz in the City. The loss of revenue alone for visiting tourists h=should be taken into consideration, as I certainly feel that ourists will go elsewhere to find the magic of the greatest sounds in the world…..New Orleans Jazz,,,

  • Guava98

    OK, this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. No music in the Quarter after midnite, 11, 10, whatever. I'll bet the people in the Quarter who a bitching moved there fairly recently. It's like idiot who move into an airports flight path and are surprized when they hear airplanes… morons…

  • Msthrock

    No! But we're planning on coming to NOLA from San Francisco in October for our wedding anniversary. We've never been and we're really looking forward to the music….it's the main reason we're coming. But, we get enough of that police state action in California.

    Believe me, this is not what you want powers that be in New Orleans. Restrictions and opening the flood gates to commercialism killed the music and art scene in SF.

  • Veronica Alweiss

    A letter written to the President of French Quarter Citizens:

    Dear Ms. Paddison,

    I am writing to you from California, and as a part-time resident of New Orleans for 20 years. I appreciate you taking the time to read my email. My intention here is not to place blame but to share my heartfelt concern for what’s unfolding in the Quarter. I understand that your organization is the voice behind the city’s actions to enforce the ordinance to quiet street musicians after 8pm.

    You’re website states, “The French Quarter is our neighborhood which we share with the city of New Orleans and New Orleans shares with the world.” I was struck by this statement and I believe I now have a better understanding of the mindset of your organization. It appears to me that the French Quarter is not owned by the members of French Quarter Citizens, rather its members reside there. I see that your organization’s mission is, ” To preserve the quality of life in the Vieux Carré neighborhood, to preserve its historical character…” As residents, your members are contributing to the destruction of New Orleans, specifically to the dissipation of the culture of the French Quarter, which your organization also makes reference to as, “a unique continuum of history, a gumbo of residential and commercial activity spiced with artists, musicians, bars, bawdy entertainment, museums and architectural treasures. This legacy is a fleeting snapshot of the old world …”

    As police enforce this curfew, what is now fleeting is the city’s uniqueness itself. I am wondering if the French Quarter Citizens realize what is so beautiful about New Orleans today is now becoming “the old world?” Your organization’s mission goes on to state,”…and to work with other organizations to focus attention on the problems confronting our neighborhood.” Imagine what you’re organization might be able to achieve if the mission shifted from “to focus attention on,” to “resolving” the problems confronting the neighborhood.

    I understand that you’ve experienced street musicians playing into the evening as a problem. As the leader of the French Quarter Citizens, please pause and take another moment to reflect on what we are all losing by fixing this problem. I am saddened to witness the very own residents of the French Quarter, due to what appears to be a misdirection of well-meaning intentions and a lack of awareness of the consequences, ruin what is so great about New Orleans.

    Isn’t what has been lost, already enough? I recall how badly New Orleans wanted the country to embrace her after the storm. I remember the pleas for tourists to come back.

    Without moments such as, coming upon local, gifted musicians playing their hearts out in the evening on the street corner, tourists will stop coming to New Orleans.

    The Facebook page, “Don’t Stop the Music. Let New Orleans Street Musicians Play,” has gathered thousands who are speaking up on behalf of your beloved neighborhood. Many are comments by tourists from across the country. Millions “get” your city and embrace your culture. They have supported your economy time and time again by returning to New Orleans to participate in the city’s unique, distinct culture. They hold it as sacred. Don’t the members of French Quarter Citizens feel that way too?

    Ms. Paddison, I imagine you also had a moment when it happened. Mine was in April of 1990. I was out on my balcony on St Ann. Through the calm I heard a lone trumpet playing. It was 2am. That is when I new I loved New Orleans and I would do whatever I could to preserve it.

    The French Quarter is not yours. It’s all of ours.

    I implore your members to reconsider what they are giving up, just to get a few quieter hours in their evening.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

  • UptownR

    This is insane. WHO would complain about this? If you chose to live on Bourbon Street, what did you expect it would be like???? In the middle of this seafood crisis, still clawing our way to recovery from Katrina, we decide to destroy our own culture? This is utter, total madness. These bands are THE BEST thing about our city. Enforcing these loony rules will kill tourism, wreck our fun, drive up crime (streets more deserted, less fun stuff for young people to do)…… Overnight I've done a 180 on our mayor. I've been bragging on him since election day. If he lets this go on, I'm seeing him in a whole other light…..

  • Gallivanburwell

    This kinda *#@! is why I wasn't sorry to move out of the Quarter to Faubourg St. John after 9 years a few years ago. The VCPORA & their lifeless ilk killed every attempt to bring live music (and tourist & local dollars and foot traffic which makes neighborhoods safer) to Rampart St., ostensibly so they “wouldn't have another Bourbon St.” So now they don't want to have “another Bourbon St.” ON Bourbon St.? Jayzus! These folks need to take another shot of embalming fluid & STFU.

    That we have a new NOPD assault on our culture straight out of the box with our new Police Chief is very discouraging. Mitch needs to step up NOW.

    Those first couple of blocks off of Canal on the FQ side have always been pretty dicey, and having something beautiful going on there that isn't CRIME is a GOOD idea. Plus, technically that block isn't IN the FQ. The first block on the FQ side is legally downtown.

  • Thank you, Offbeat, for your suggestion of one way out-of-towners can support the street musicians. I have contacted the following people at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau: Kelly Schulz, kschulz@neworleanscvb.com, 504-566-5045, Tara Letort tletort@neworleanscvb.com, 504-566-5048, Christine DeCuir cdecuir@neworleanscvb.com, 504-5090, and Jennifer Lotz jlotz@neworleanscvb.com, 504-566-5098. Additionally, there is a great grassroots Facebook page: 'Don't Stop the Music. Let New Orleans Street Musicians Play!'

  • Blip

    The street musician scene is out of control. It needs some regulation and order. It needs to be here, but not as anarchy rule. A little oversight, regulation and accountability is warranted. Plenty of cities around this great country have systems that work for everyone.

    What of the situations of bands playing in clubs only to have street musicians crowding the doors outside and preventing people from going in to hear them? Oh yeah, they would have to pay for that. Much better to have a cardboard box on the street panhandling with a trumpet in your hand. Nevermind the club owners and bands who play there investments in being professional musicians and operators.

    Quite frankly, some of the street musicians flat out suck. In some cases, it's just panhandling with an instrument they can't play worth a damn.

    Fix it, but don't screw it.

    • Bob

      a little harsh, but, sometimes, a lot of times, Frenchmen is out of control.

    • bearealman

      Trust me, Blip, one man's “suck” is another's “brilliant”.
      Once you start making judgements of taste, you get the nearly-evil combo of crowds gawking at the bland. I've had more occasions to visit Manhattan in the last decade than New Orleans, and the “cleanup” of Times Square went far beyond reducing crime and bringing in Disney. The entire Broadway area has become tedious and square. I don't think that “Times Square” was intended to be that literal a name. A dreaded Andean flute band, in the Muzak style, holds sway near the TKTS booth most weekends. The few subway stations with real musicians are compelled to dig ever lower into the pandering maw of can't-be-bothered-commuters' inability to pause and listen, but they might turn their heads if something glaringly familiar is minstrelled across the pavement. If musicians suck as in incompetent, then suck the attention away from them by attracting audiences with good stuff. “Regulation and order” that tries to pull rank on musical taste leads to the death of creativity.

      • Blip

        Yes, NYC makes the street musicians license and have to have their performance locations approved. that's a good start for here.

  • Kent

    Sorry I won't be in town for the 8th….but, SERIOUSLY???? Who in their right mind would purchase/lease a place to live, in close proximity to Bourbon Street, and expect it to be quiet at night? Did they ever visit before signing papers? I recognize the desire to keep a residential element in the Quarter, but come on – maybe on Burgundy…
    OK – it's time to update the ordinance…..