DC Nightlife Noise

to promote the enforcement of DC’s Noise Ordinance for nightlcubs

This website is a call to action to Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Councilman Jack Evans, Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Fred Moosally, the DCRA Director, Chief of Police, and ANC commissioners.  DC residents who have been damaged for years by amplified music coming from nearby restaurants, taverns, and nightclubs want DC’s Noise Ordinance to be enforced.

The Challenge
  • Big woofers
  • Open air
  • Pounding music
  • Lost sleep
  • No enforcement
The Problem: Seven clubs in Club Central (south of Dupont Circle) have open air lounges / roofdecks to play "dance music" at hearing-damage sound levels with dominance of highly amplified low frequency [bass from big woofers] music that travels and penetrates 130 apartments in two nearby condominium buildings, and another 60 in a new condo building even closer tt he music. .  The World Health Orgnization finds that such music disturbs sleep to the extent of damaging health.  DC noise law blindly rolls all the possible sounds into one legal maximum allowed sound level - 60 decibels of normal conversation - but then fails to enforce even that law.

Note: we want to solve one big problem with alcohol businesses:
     sleep-disturbing music

Noise news you can use
Settlement Agreement
approved by ABC Board
ABC Board Orders 

Latest News

Aug 25, 2018.  DCCA (Dupont Circle Citizens Association) protested Duke’s Grocery, 1513 17th Street NW, application to break the long-standing ANC2B 17th Street sidewalk café closing policy.  Duke's applied for one additional hour of service each day to their current  closing times: 10 pm weekdays and midnight Friday and Saturday. The ANC2B supported the application 5 to 2  despite strong counter-testimony by DCCA President Robin Diener and former DCCA President and ANC Commissioner Rob Halligan and others.  At the ABC protest hearing July 11, 2018 the ANC testified its support for Duke's.  Witnesses Robin Diener, ANC2B06 Commissioner Nick Delledonne, former ANC Commissioners Phil Carney and Abigail Nichols as well as neighbor representatives Caroline Mindel and Allen Greenberg presented a strong case of probable noise disturbance of the neighbors' legal right to peace, order, and quiet.   We asked the ABC Board to deny the application in their decision by the end of November. In support of the case Abigail Nichols for DCCA submitted a  “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” recommendation.   Read the complete argument .

May 16, 2018. The ABC Board fined a tavern for allowing loud music to escape from the business in violation of the Settlement Agreement.  The violation was discovered by two ABRA investigators "monitoring" the street.  A simple open and shut case as described in the Board Order.  But ABRA has yet to investigate and punish nightclubs in Club Central that clearly violate both their Settlement Agreement and a Board Order at one club despite at least forty resident complaints of such distrubing music.

April 11, 2018.   ANC2B voted 5-2 for more noise on 17th St by expanding its policy of midnight closings for outdoor alcohol sevice near residents.  The applicant Duke's Grocery argued that it was foregoing business as customers moved somewhere else, although who knows where, and that it had a perfect record of no AMRA noise violations as every alcohol business also has no ABRA violations in a no-enforcement ABRA regime.  But although ANC2B will not protest the license expansion, the DCCA is protesting and can discover and present witness residents who are already disturbed by the present midnight service.

Feb 28, 2018.  The ABC Board approved an unsoundproofed outdoor patio for the Power nightclub with noise control conditions: capping the maximum number of people in summer garden at 60, closing the summer garden at 11 :00 p.m., and barring amplified sounds outside the premises to prevent the creation of noise disturbances from large crowds and amplified sounds that have the potential to disturb residents during traditional sleeping hours late at night. In re T.L., 996 A.2d 805, 812-13 (D.C. 2010) (saying the government has a right to prevent noise so unreasonably loud that it " ... unreasonably intrudes on the privacy of a captive audience or so loud and continued as to offend[] a  reasonable person of common sensibilities and disrupt[] the reasonable conduct of basic nighttime activities such as sleep"). Read the Board Order 2018-076 .

Jan 31, 2018. Now that's quiet!  Big Bear Cafe can have a rooftop outdoor seating IFF (1) close  at  10 PM; (2) maximum  45 people; (3) no amplified sounds generated on the rooftop; ( 4) install and maintain soundproof walls with  soundproofing materials on all sides directly facing residents; (5) construct and maintain a hallway on the second floor to mitigate sound.  We know a dozen other rooftop businesses that need the same protection for neighbors. On the other hand, if ABRA enforcement keeps its long-practiced ears-off policies, the neighbors will suffer noise like many other such neighbors. Read Board Order 2018-034.

Dec 1, 2017. ANC2B default, failed to show up for Roll Call to establish standing to protest the license for Heist, a nightclub in Club Central although with no outdoor patio, and which politely keeps its street door shut on Jefferson Place.

Nov 29, 2017. ABC Board restricted outdoor operation of the Dacha Beer Garden Tavern to 11 PM and midnight because the Board finds it appropriate to curb Dacha's occupancy and hours in order to prevent the overcrowding of nearby sidewalks and discourage patrons from walking on S Street, N.W., very late into the night. which said nothing about sleep-disturbing music except for noting that the Noise laws apply.  See the Board Order 2017-582.

Sep 27, 2017.  ANC and ABC Board stiffed the neighbors. After discussions with the new license applicants for City Tap House restaurant and the freshman ANC2B05 Commissioner, ANC2B eased their public space use criteria and executed a settlement agreemment with the applicant.  With no chance for the neighbors to hold out for tighter restrictions at a ABC Board Hearing if necessary. Thus the new business-favored power of the ANC to override neighbor protests halted the neighbors' protest.  Then the neighbors, who had only contingent standing, were granted a chance to address the ABC Board in an attempt to recover their standing and object to the ANC's hasty deal.  To strengthen the story, the CEO of Tabard Inn, whose GM had signed the protest petition, appeared as the final needed protestant as the controller of the GM. No dice.  After a lively debate with the CEO explaining how business organization and control works, the Board decided that she was not qualified to appear for the actual petition signer (who was needed to run the hotel), and that thus the protesters had no standing. And thus the ANC agreemnt is the final answer.  The idea of a relaxed style hearing was abandoned in service to looser terms for the applicant and less work for the Board. The biz squad's influence on the DC Council paid offin a new law that curtailed a source of protest.

Aug 5, 2017.  More restaurants morphing into bars and nighclubs.  In a recent DC Policy Center report, “As D.C. Nightlife Grows, It’s Becoming More of a Bar Town,” senior fellow Kate Rabinowitz details the dominance of bar licenses as a share of the huge increase in new liquor licenses issued. The city’s population grew by over 100,000 during the same period.  ...  "Liquor licenses for bars increased 77 percent, and restaurants grew 37 percent Multi-activity restaurants are increasingly commonplace and extremely popular. Big battles are still fought over those permits and nightclubs are reflexive targets for the persisting gaggles of objectors. .... As a result of industry advocacy and public support for licensing reforms over the past 15 years, the efforts of long-notorious and now less-powerful small anti-nightlife “citizens groups” to push for a licensing system that strictly defines venue types and restricts allowable activities have largely failed.   ....     Attempts to restrict restaurants as places to sit and dine, bars as separate spaces for drinking, and nightclubs for what some seem to view as post-sundown halls of hedonism for dancing and entertainment did not succeed.   [Mike Lee] Which is why each restaurant license with entertainment needs restrictions in its license regarding sound disturbance generation in the neigborhoods.

Dec 14, 2016.  The ABC Board revised its ruling on a noise protest against  Chi-Cha Lounge after the Appeals Court sent the case back.  Upon reconsideration, the Board finds that the placement of speakers in the portion of the establishment that lacks soundproofing is causing noise issues in Apartment 101. Therefore, the Board conditions renewal on the Applicant keeping the speakers away from any walls shared by the business and Apartment 101. Reminder: The protestant's complaint had been originally dismissed because the applicant had installed commercial level soundproofing. Note a continuing dilemma for sound complaints.  [Witness] Andrew Payne
indicated that he took sound meter readings around the establishment. The record does not indicate that Mr. Payne has any particular expertise in audio engineering or whether the equipment he used was appropriately calibrated; therefore, the Board does not credit the sound readings recorded by Mr. Payne.  Suggestion: if you have a noisy bar nearby, don't bother with dB readings.  Note how much you think the music is louder than ordinary conversation which the external noise standard and how much it disturbs your and your neighbors' sleep.

Oct 26, 2016.  Decades gets a stipulated license [OK to open before full approval] after agreeing with the neighbors [Settlement Agreement] to contain all music that's louder than a conversation, even on the roof deck which was the source of Midtown's fatal restrictions by the ABC Board.

Sep 19, 2016.  A group of more than five protestants have filed a license protest against Decades, 1219 Connecticut Ave, a nightclub applying to occupy the premises abandoned by Midtown when its license was restricted to midnight operation of its outdoor facilities.   The applicant has previously lost a noise protest by residents of the Presidential condominium against Barcode (17th St & L Streets).  The group was granted standing to protest in the roll call hearing where the applicant (or lawyer) did not appear (and therefore had the application dismissed, with opportunity to request re-consideration.)

Sept 14, 2016.  The case against Chi-Cha Lounge was re-opened by the Appeals Court because the Board ha[s] not come to grips with evidence that the applicant, through its audio engineer Michael Reed, had installed  soundproofing in only the rear section of the Lounge, not in the front of the establishment, which is the area beneath the apartment owned (and leased to successive renters) by" the Protestant. The complaint had been originally dismissed because the applicant had installed commercial level soundproofing. 

August 15.  The Council Committee the oversees ABRA changed chairs when Vincent Orange resigned from the Council to accept the position of head of the DC Chamber of Commerce. That means a education of the new chair in thestruggle to contain late night noise in the Club Central area of Dupont Circle.

Jun 15.  Ye shall not noise.   The ABC Board ordered specific and severe conditions on Chaplin Restaurant's license. The Board conditions approval of the entertainment endorsement on the following conditions in order to minimize potential 1 disturbances: (1) the establishment's entertainment hours shall end at 1:00 a.m.,  daily; (2) no entertainment is permitted on the sidewalk cafe; (3) no entertainment or amplified music is permitted on the first floor of the establishment; (4) disc jockeys (DJ s) are not authorized; (5) the establishment's doors and windows must be closed whenever entertainment is provided; except the doors  may be opened for normal ingress and egress; and (6) no amplified music shall be heard from outside of  the establishment. This time ANC6E stepped up to protect its residents, and argud that although the applicant has no bad track recod on noise and has no present intention for noisy outdoor entertainment, the neighborhood has many other potential noise makers, and that a marker needs to be laid. Such an argument carries "great weight" when made by an ANC, more weight than a group of five woud be accorded. As a result, residents with noise worries and complaints should insist that their ANC do its neighborhood duty. ANC has no duty to promote DC tax revenue collection from noisy alcohol. Read the Board Order.

June 2.  Nightclub silenced.  The ABC Board granted a protest by ANC6A of Touche tavern in the H Street NE corridor by banning outdoor amplified music from 10 PM to 9 AM, and closing the outdoor patio at 11PM on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The protestant was the ANC, without a separate protest by a group of five or more perturbed residents. Six residents and two ANC Commissioners testified about the long-standing disturbing noise from the tavern's roof.   The ruling is a follow-on to its warning to operators in the ruling against Dupont Circle's Midtown club.   Read the Board Order.   If you are disturbed by loud music from alcohol serving businesses, the triennial renewal period happens September 30. Watch for a big placard on the business front with the protest period and deadline for protesting.  Contact your ANC whose mission is to protect the neighborhood [ANC6A seems particularly devoted to that task] and/or get up a group of at least five concerned and committed residents and fikle a protest for peace, order, and quiet.

Feb 29.  Borderstan reports that Midtown looks like closing  - movers seen removing the furniture, an employee blurting out that it's over; no one answering the phone; website showing no future events. But still conflicting info and Borderstan the only public source. Meanwhile owner Rehman, who also owns Dirty Martini, has a financial challenge over a court-ordered payment that he did not pay and US marshals seized DM's license. Stay tuned for developments.Whether another club tries to move in will depend on the business's view of market saturation and the need for outdoor music. 

Feb 29.  ABRA oversight hearing before Councilman Orange. Few kindred noise activists but  a crowd complaining about DCRA. Carl Nelson and Sarah Peck (in absentia but present in spirit) testified that we are winning with the ABC Board but getting nowhere with the Council.  ABRA Director Moosally seems to be getting the message as he pithily observed that "you guys are 3 and 0 with the Board". Our position is that it's time for the many legislative and executive actors to protect residents' rights.  Committee members Nadeau and Allen had no comment or question as they keep the ABRA proposed "plainly audible" standard bottled up in committee. We did say that same situation happened when the District raised the drinking age and ended smoking inside. That the alcohol businesses adjusted after each new restriction and would do so again. It's only a relatively few clubs (and pseudo-clubs) that play loud outdoor music.   Read Nelson-Peck testimony.

Feb 17, 2016.  Midtown partly silenced. A step forward in stifling Dupont Club Central nightlife music in the ABC Board's Order that Midtown club shut its outdoor operation after 11 PM on weeknights and midnight otherwise.  In the order the Board explicitly recognized that the residents are being assaulted with unwelcome music by the several clubs. But it ignored the residents' testimony that Dirty Martini, with the same owner as Midtown, was out of control in making noise that violated a Board Order, its settlement agreement, and the noise disturbance law. It also ignored that its own ABRA enforcement arm is part of the problem despite residents' testimony that ABRA was issuing no violations and did issue a dishonest report to the residents on its disposition of a list of 31 complaints over several months from the residents' building.  This order makes three decsions against three clubs for noisy music as the residents have only one-by-one license protest as a vehicle for action.  Unless the Board is quietly and separately pursuing Dirty Martini, the owner gets a pass to continue flagrantly violating the noise restrictions. All of which means that the only serious relief for the residents must be political from the Council that lives in fear of disapproval by the multitude of businesses that contribute tons of sales tax revenue from alcohol. 

The Board did give a sort of warning notice to the other Dupont noisemakers: 

In the novel Gifts, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote that "the eyes can choose where to look. But the ears can't choose where to listen."  Nowhere is this truer than Dupont Circle, where residents, from the comfort of their own bedrooms, often have no choice but to listen to a barrage of late night music emanating from local nightclubs and taverns. [L]icensed establishments in Dupont Circle and beyond must recognize that they have an obligation to ensure that late night music played on their property does not emanate hundreds of feet away from their premises and into nearby homes. If licensed establishments fail to meet this obligation, then they risk ending up like Midtown, and losing important late night privileges.
But until ABRA starts issuing penalties for such noise, the Order has only entertainment value and source of income for the lawyers. As of a conversation yesterday, the ABRA Director has shown no indications of any special attention to Club Central noise.   Read the Board Order.

Nov 11. We have company, including Georgetown, in  fighting for sleep against business's claims of the priority right to profits however they choose.   The Federal Aviation Administration is redrawing the paths flights follow as it switches from ground-based to satellite navigation dubbed NextGen. Some communities say they weren’t fully warned about the new flight paths, and now neighborhoods that never had much airport noise are getting bombarded. Opposition groups from Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood to Silicon Valley are blitzing airports with hundreds of thousands of noise complaints and a few lawsuits to stop the changes. [Wall Street Journal, Nov 12, 2015]. Hello, Jack Evans who has resisted our calls for support in the nightlife noise problem. 

Oct 27. Borderstan (area around 14th & U St) is back with new editors.  Their early entry in the noise issue was a one-sided piece for the clubs, pushing the Mark Lee line that unhappy residents should shut up and move.  That drew invective from some residents who rightly expect a quiet bedroom - no matter where they live with respect to nightclub music.  The editors need some advice that "fair and balanced" isn't just Fox News doublespeak.

October 26 Hearing

Oct 26. Confrontation at City Hall.  A public hearing on nightlife noise pitted 17 residents and representatives against 40 business owners, workers, and associations over a proposed new law for controlling late night music from nightclubs.  The residents prefer the new law that would use a "plainly audible" standard in place of noise meters, and would close outdoor music venues after midnight. Residents and ANC Commissioners and citizen associations testified from Wards 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6.  Chairman Orange and Committee Member Nadeau (Ward 1) recognized the need for both quiet homes and vibrant nightlife business (which bring in a ton of tax money) and wondered how to satisfy both simultaneously. Residents first focused on ABRA's lack of enforcement and called for ABRA transparency and accountability (see Carl Nelson's leadoff testimony).

The businesses took their lead from the business associations (restaurants, nightlife hospitality, and live performance) who abhorred the proposed midnight closings of the outdoor music venues and forecast a near collapse of DC finances from loss of their tax revenue. And with probably no understanding of the problems with noise meters in nightlife, they fought the prospect of arbitrary judgments of inexpert investigators on "plainly audible".  It's the classic longing for a golden age that never was, which to them had the lovely advantage of producing almost no noise violations anywhere in the District. Their inspiration leader was Mark Lee, weekly columnist in The Blade and new head of the newly formed DC Nightlife Hospitality Association, with an appeal to a half-true vision of noise meter enforcement.  Lee claimed hospitality as the largest private sector generator of  DC tax revenue at $300M a year, called for meters, not judges, because of a need for data (but no recognition of actual meter problems), a true statement that the Noise Task Force found very few violations (but no recognition as to how misleading that picture could be), and railed against a few unrepresentative residents "never satisfied until the city rolls up the sidewalks".   (Anyone who ever tried to slip noise meter readings past the ABC Board knows they are nearly impossible evidence to admit.)  The Restaurant Association's lawyer sounded one of his favorite themes that people shouldn't live near entertainment and have a right to quiet sleep.   Some recognized the true problem - lack of enforcement - which would not be automatically solved by new laws. Naturally, they would rather keep the old law that impedes enforcement than a new law that might ease it.   A news report of the residents' half of the hearing by Andrew Giambrone of City Paper

Next step, political work by Orange to find some scheme not abhorrent to either side, and, we hope, some way to build a fire under ABRA to plug the enforcement hole.  Then the aggrieved residents will have to do some connecting to their Council representatives before any new law goes anywhere. On that score, the busineses are willing to spend more money than the residents on persuading Council Members. But since Orange is a lawmaker, not a law enforcer, enforcement pressure will have to be pushed at the Mayor and the ABC Board.  

  Oct 21.  Finally, a long postponed protest hearing on renewing the license for Midtown nightclub.  Midtown insisted on a simple straightforward review of the club's operations, while the resident protestants maintained that the owner should be denied operation because of his noise violations at a nearby club Dirty Martini.  The legal and relevance battle raged for five hours centered on noise from both Midtown and Dirty Martini.  Midtown focused on the acoustical re-construction of its roofdeck; the protestants focused on the noise violations (unnoticed by ABRA for at least a year and a half) at Dirty Martini and one clearly heard violation by Midtown. The protestants also noted flawed enforcement in that ABRA found no violations in 31 different complaints over a year an a half by residents from the Palladium condominium. And recorded merely No Violation even though ABRA must have not examined some of the complaints at all. The Board showed that they understood the multiple noise generator world of Club Central while searching for a route to a voluntary compromise between the parties.  The protestants balked at dealing with the owner on the basis of his not honoring to either the DC noise law nor his Voluntary Agreement nor the 2014 Board Order that he not disturb the residents.  A Board ruling might happen in 90 days.

Oct 14, 15.  news story Dupont Current on Oct 26 hearing on neproposed Alcohol Regulation Bill.

Sep 21. Decision deferred.  Committee Chair Orange decided that the new ABRA-recommended bill has enough questions that it needs a public hearing, set for Oct 26, before the committee is ready to vote on its acceptance. He did say that the Restaurant Association objects to the bill's provisions; we also know that the Live Performance Coalition opposes it.  Although we see resident sleep as an established right in DC law, the businesses prefer the liberty to attract customers however they choose for purely profit considerations.  The committee members applauded Orange's move.

Sep 18, 2015. New Noise Bill.   Committee Chair Orange released a new noise bill Nightlife Regulation Amendment Act of 2015 headed into committee markup Sep 21. It adopts the ABRA recommendations of the July 9 hearing and states as its objectives:

To establish a new plainly audible noise standard with specific measurement requirements for on-premises licensed retailers in the District of Columbia. To establish that an ABRA investigator can verify a noise violation under Title 25 of the D.C. Code without entering a District resident’s home. To provide noise protections for District residents living in commercial areas in addition to preserving noise protections for residents living in residential areas. To prohibit entertainment or playing recorded music on an unenclosed outdoor summer garden or sidewalk café after midnight during any day of the week.
To get it out of committee, Orange needs at least two votes of other members who are from Wards 1 (Nadeau), 6 (Allen), 4 (Todd), and at large (Silverman) who need to be convinced by Monday, Sep 21.  Once out of committee it will go before the Council for passage into law where it will need at least seven votes.

The bill improves present noise law in that it makes it easier for ABRA to locate and cite violators, a task that ABRA has been doing poorly since outdoor music became the nightclub rage. New is a standard of plainly audible within 50 feet at night, and no outside music at all after midnight. The businesses want looser restrictions, of course, towards anything goes. They don't sleep near the clubs.  Eventually, the test of its success will be whether ABRA actually enforces it to fix the problem that led to our coalition's birth.  This bill has gotten this far because Committee Chair Orange has heard our repeated testimony and has seen and heard the Club Central din at midnight.

New Noise Law Hearing   July 9

Councilman Vincent Orange held a Committee hearing on his new nightlife noise bill Nightlife Regulation Amendment Act of 2015.

Testimony by all interested parties: the DC enforcement agencies, the aggrieved citizens, and the alcohol businesses and their lawyers.  ABRA Director Moosally changed the expected tone by opening with a greatly improved enforcement scheme for actually detecting and punishing the violations in new ways that should improve enforcement - if ABRA were actually to implement it and follow through with prosecution. We strongly support the proposal, (read ABRA proposal), which includes recommendations we have made to ABRA and Orange's office.

However, we remain concerned about ABRA's lax enforcement track record, which was mentioned repeatedly at the hearing. Orange quipped that he had a lot of noise in his office from resident complaints about enforcement.

Moosally's plan:  use a plainly audible standard for violation if amplified noise heard 50 feet away at night or 100 feet in daytime without use of sound meters; protection of residents in commercial zones; no more visits to complainant's residence; no music after midnight in outdoor space; stiffer penalties up to revoked license for violations.  He said he had enough staff to make this realistic proposal work.

Orange said he would replace the original bill text with the ABRA proposal, which will be considered by the DC Council this fall.

In the meantime, we urge Moosally to implement the proposed enforcement techniques as much as possible under current law. ABRA's first test could be a "pilot" effort to use new techniques to tackle longstanding noise problems in the Club Central area.

Witnesses from ANCs, residences, citizens associations, and even restaurants, were generally positive with the ABRA proposal, calling it a good starting point. Additional time for public comment will be offered before a final bill reaches the Council. Many thanks to the many people from several city areas who spent hours and testified briefly about this noise problem.

From the Club Central neighborhood, Sarah Peck testified on our efforts to control the nightlife noise. Read Peck testimony. ANC Commissioner Abigail Nichols described the growth of the Club Central noise problem.   Read Nichols testimony. Carl Nelson presented a White Paper on the science behind the boom-boom music/noise in the residents' bedrooms driven by the strong propagation of low frequency sound. Read the White Paper and Nelson testimony.

It is still four steps to quiet: passage of the bill by Orange's committee, passage by the Council, signature by the Mayor, and vigorous enforcement by ABRA. Even if all that happens, it will be at least Christmas before peace descends. 

Unless ABRA gets serious now and effectively enforces the existing law.

Jul 8. Press release Residents to Sound Off About Lack of Nightlife Noise Enforcement at July 9, 2015,  DC Council Hearing.  Read press release.

Jun 4. In prep for the July 9 hearing, we met with Orange who listened to our stories and reminded us how his bill would move toward enactment.  Sarah Peck presented a proposed expanded law that would set new standards and enforcement methods. Others presenting views from their territories: Joan Sterling of Shaw-Dupont Citizens, Robin Diener of Dupont Circle Citizens, Abigail Nichols ANC2B Commissioner, Dennis James of Kalorama Citizens, Sara Maddux of Federation of Citizens Associations.  Orange said he expects the Restaurant Association to oppose any law with more teeth. Orange also emphasized that bills have to pass the Committee before even being considered by the whole Council, and that the Committee members have to be convinced enough of the merits to vote with Orange.  A list of the materials presented.

A later suggested revision package for noise code 25-725: stiffer penalties, explicit protection for residents in commercial zones, violation if heard in residence or audible 50 feet from source or louder than legal limit by 10 dB(A) or 5 dB(C), install auto-monitoring sensor in outdoor patio. [Note: the dB(C) scale gathers all the low frequency sound power that the standard dB(A) scale ignores. dB(C) is important because low frequencies penetrate residences farther away than assumed by the present law.]

Jun 4.  A law we would like to see.  When asking the political system to write a law, it is most useful to draft one for the lawmakers. We proposed such a law for DC nightlife noise control to Councilman Orange based on principles by Robert Chanaud - Noise Ordinances: Tools for Enactment, Modification and Enforcement of a Community Noise Ordinance.   Read the suggested rules and the suggested language for the Orange bill.

May 29. A DC hotel blasted a near neighbor who said the hotel has been "hosting Friday night deck parties at ear shattering decibels" and refused to turn down the volume because the music was created by "an outside organizer ... [over which] they had no control over the volume". The neighbor said "She then condescendingly told us that if we didn't like it we could call the police. We did. It quieted for just a few minutes but was then up to full blast."  Good news: the neighbor says ABRA showed up, without passing through his residence, and told the hotel to shut down the music. He also posted the incident on the hotel's Facebook page and will file a complaint with the hotel chain. 

May 25.  Midtown proudly allowed a private party in its newly sound-protected roofdeck.  Unfortunately for their claims, it was the only Club Central club operating at the time, which made a clear test of its sound propagation into neighbors' residences.  Both the Jefferson Row and Palladium condominium residents could hear it inside.  One resident recorded it on video as evidence for the noise authorities.  Play the video. YouTube version. Midtown is the white penthouse with the flashing light. 

May 19. Praise the lord, at least [Orange] is thinking about it. The city is either unwilling or unable to enforce exusting law, said Sarah Peck in Perry Stein's Washington Post story, Council Member wants noisy bars, restaurants to record decibel levels.   Stein reviewed a year's struggle by the Coalition to get the outdoor music levels from the clubs into compliance with the noise laws. Stein reports that Orange said he hopes the introduction serves an an impetus to discuss how to ensure the city nightlife establishments do more to comply with noise laws.  Read the article.. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 9.

May 12. Website District Hopper reports that Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh has joined as a co-sponsor of Vincent Orange's new nightlife noise bill.

May 5.  Since residents' noise complaints are mostly about losing sleep, we sent ABRA Director Moosally a letter outlining the science behind sleep disturbance from low frequency noise, especially bass-dominated music, from which the World Health Organization recommends using dB(C) scale for measurements, not the dB(A) scale of DC law that is used for generic noise. Read the letter to Moosally.

Meeting with ABRA. At the coalition’s request, we met April 30 on nightlife noise with ABRA Director Moosally, ABRA staffers,  DCRA, five police officers, and Mayor's assistant [Judah Gluckman]. Resident reps from Palladium and Jefferson Row condos, and LeDroit Park.     Moosally announced that there is a new noise bill introduced in the Council, a new tour by the Noise Task Force with emphasis on roofdecks, and added investigators for 7-day coverage.  Residents complained of too much investigators' invasion of residences to verify what is obvious on the street and in the complaints register - that there is a continuous noise disturbance out there that needs fixing, and of general lack of effective noise law enforcement. Moosally conceded that the ABRA procedure for investigators was being changed to recognize that the law did not require limiting noise violations to 10PM to 7 AM, and that the noise may not have to be heard by investigators in the residence with the windows closed and any HVAC devices turned off.  DCRA noted its mission does not include nightlife, and that sound readings don't find violations because there is too much ambient noise to find a 4 dB difference for any one club.  Nevertheless, Moosally said the Noise Task Force would be active starting in early May and more investigators would be active in June and July.  Residents asserted 1) that the Ozio decision by the ABC Board correctly treated the noise disturbance law; 2) that we need a new law that recognizes the nightclub proliferation near residents, and 3) that we also need an outside expert in such problems to study the DC problem and make recommendations (outside local politics) for a workable scheme.  The Mayor's rep Gluckman recorded his notes and action items in a memo [read the memo]. 

May 9. The Coalition wrote Councilman Orange to thank him for introducing a bill for a new system for enforcement of nightlife noise rules.  The bill proposed hourly readings by each club of sound emanating from the club, and a regular written report to ABRA of the measured sound levels.  We offered some suggestions on how the system could be structured and enforced.  Read our letter .

May 9. DC is suing the owner of a Dupont Circle house who has irritated neighbors and police for allegedly renting out the premises to organizers of loud parties and private concerts ... (new) D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed suit against the property owner, citing “egregious and unsafe business practices” as well as more than a hundred police calls to the property, many in response to reports of excessive noise or disorderly conduct.   [Abigail Hauslohner, WashPo article]. A residence cannot just declare itself a business open to the public, especially if it also makes a lot of noise. Only nightclubs can get away with making a lot of illegal noise.  Maybe the AG will notice the nightclub illegality, and ABRA's impotence, and actually do something useful about it. We have alerted him to the problem. 

May 3. Video of music from Dirty Martini [on youtube] making yet another illegal noise disturbance which will no doubt be ignored by ABRA because it is a Sunday evening and no staff at ABRA have nightclubs as a near neighbor.  Same time, noise disturbance by Public Bar which actually agreed to turn down the volume.No, of course not permanently when there is no enforcement.

April 30.  meeting with ABRA Director, police, DCRA, and Mayor's office  for more excuses about what is not being done to stop noise disturbances of residents near Club Central. Details soon.

Feb 20.  “we are going force this issue to the forefront,” said Councilman     Orange as he recognized that we have a problem with club noise enforcement.  He is the only Councilmember who has actually come to Club Central on Saturday night to hear the problem.

Feb 20.  We testified on ABRA performance at end of marathon (8 hour) Oversight Hearing of Councilman Orange's Committee on business stuff.  About 100 citizens had their say for three minutes each. Sarah Peck, Abigail Nichols, and Carl Nelson emphasized that noise control of the nightclubs depends on ABRA enforcement of the rules on noise disturbance dictated by recent ABC Board decisions.  Read testimonies of Peck, Nichols, Nelson.  Sara Maddux testified for the DC Federation of Citizens Associations Read Maddux Testimony  .  ABRA Director Moosally and three ABC Board members were also present. 

Feb 20. Fix entertainment endorsement rules, testified Mark Rosenman, board member of Cleveland Park Citizens Association, so residents can protest whenever a new or transferred endorsement is proposed.  Otherwise bad operators could obtain a license to disturb the residents, at least until a case can be made for challenging the license through the endless complaint process. Another reason for ABRA to fix its enforcement scheme. Read Rosenman testimony.

Feb 3.  The ABC Board ruled that Bar Code (L Street NW) shall not emanate noise that disturbs residents.  Specifically, BarCode must limit its outdoor patio to 45 patrons and neither Barcode nor its patrons can emit noise that can be heard in residences. The closest residence, the protestants, is the Presidential condo at 16th & L Streets. Read the Board Order

Jan 21. The ABC Board declared open season on the residents of a condominium 45 feet from the Takoma Station Tavern which the board found to have no effective barriers to amplified music sound, and therfore allowed the tavern to operate only until 11 PM weekdays and midnight on weekends with no noise restrctions.  It declared such sound to be not unduly burdensome, without asking how many condo residents preferred, or needed, to sleep before those hours. No doubt no member of the Board lived there. Read the Board Order. Note that the law on noise disturbance does not make exceptions from limiting noise emanation to 60dB in residential areas. Residents who have a problem will have to start again from Go with the burden of proof to prove noise disturbance after it starts booming. From our experience with Club Central, that process will take at least a year. 

Jan 14. The ABC Board denied a motion by the Coalition to more sharply define the order for Dirty Martini not to annoy residents with amplified music. The Board said that the conditions imposed by the Board in this case create bright line operating standards that are easy to enforce  Read the Board Order.  We want the enforcement authorities to see and enforce that bright line even in a noisy environment of DC nightlife.  

Dec 18. The Coalition submitted a letter to the new Mayor and the new Attorney General asking for priority attention to alcohol serving businesses that emit amplified music that far exceeds the legal limits of DC law.  The letter was signed by 14 residents and citizen representatives and associations that are disturbed by such noise.  It asks specifically: 1)  Host a public hearing on nightclub noise.; 2) Announce that enforcement of the noise laws is a top priority and require the responsible agencies to provide their plans to improve compliance and enforcement.;  3)  Hire an independent, qualified consultant to investigate the District’s current noise enforcement regime, identify model laws and best practices, and draft recommendations for reform.; 4)    Restructure the regulatory framework to ensure that one agency is responsible for enforcing the noise law, and is held accountable.; 5) Take immediate steps to improve enforcement.  Read the letter.  Additional signers are welcome as members and supporters of the DC Nightlife Nose Coalition.

Dec 15.  The ABC Board referred a resident's noise complaint (one of many) [Case#14-CMP-00687] against Dirty Martini to the ABRA staff for settlement. That means the Board accepted the complaint as valid and deserving a penalty but not so severe that justifies a full show-cause hearing (unless the business refuses to settle with ABRA).

Dec 11. Contain the music.  The ABC Board re-inforced its new take on the DC noise law for alcohol licensees by ruling for the residents against Dirty Martini when it found that the nightclub is making too much noise. In its Board Order, the Board ordered Dirty Martini to change its business practices to cease disturbing residents with music, including by specifically closing the exterior door between the club's "Dirty Bar" and an open air patio. The message for clubs in the District is that sound needs to be contained within the establishment to avoid violating DC law (and to avoid further restrictions on a liquor license, or the risk of losing it altogether). The scene will thus shift to enforcement which ABRA's investigators should be able to manage without sound meters and without entering residents' homes at all hours. 

Nov 20.  Review meeting with Fred Moosally, ABRA Director, and the Noise Task Force team (ABRA and DCRA) on progress, or lack thereof, in protecting Dupont residents from loud music from nightclubs.  Joining DC Nightlife Noise coalition were leaders from ANC2B, DCCA, and Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance.  A statement was also submitted by a resident group from the 600 block of Florida Ave NW.

Nov 19.  ABC Board echoed the Ozio standard by banning amplified music that would reach residents within 700 feet at Climax (Florida Ave NW) but only after 11 PM on weekdays and midnight weekends.

Nov 19. ABC Board approved the Settlement Agreements with Rosebar, Sauf Haus, and &Pizza.

--------   Earlier News items, full stories in News and Views.   ----------- 

Nov 12.  ANC2B signed on to Settlement Agreements with three alcohol businesses in Club Central: Rosebar, Sauf Haus, and &Pizza.  

Oct 5.  Complaints about the Sunday evening enforcement-free music assault at least drew a police officer.

Oct 1.  Stop the Music, said the ABC Board in denying nightclub Ozio's motion for reconsideration of its ruling against Ozio's roofdeck's dumping loud music into the nearby residences.    Read the Board Order.

Sep 24.  ABC Board denied a bar's application for patron-related disturbance of the residential neighborhood, even without an entertainment endorsement.  Saloon45 at 18th & Swann St Read the Board Order.

Sep 17.  18th St Lounge reached a Settlement Agreement with the residents of Jefferson Row and Palladium condominiums.

Sep 15. Necessary protest. Dupont residents filed a protest against the Sauf Haus license in the face of  a large outdoor roof deck as a temptation to Sauf Haus's joining the other six bars with roofdecks in pounding out 100 dB music during sleeping hours. 

Sep 10 Nightclub noise  Dupont Current editorial   ... the board wisely sided with nearby Jefferson Row condo owners. ...   keep the Ozio roof closed when the club features entertainment, and bans amplified sounds that can be heard inside a residence.  ...  But the board’s order already accommodates more noise from Ozio than city law allows near residentially zoned areas. ...  More will be needed, though, ....   more D.C. government involvement in noise issues.

Aug 27, 2014    ABC Board ruled that Ozio nightclub must not disturb the neighbors. Must allow no live bands on its roof, close the roof when entertainment is playing, generate no amplified sound that can be heard in neighbors' residences.    Read the Board Order.  The decision helps neighbors of nightclubs with outdoor amplified music deal with the many clubs throughout DC that want to give patrons both ear-splitting music and outdoor fresh air and moonlight.  Ozio will appeal, reports Perry Stein in City Paper

Aug 25. CityPaper article by Perry Stein After Residents Complain, Dupont’s Ozio Forced to Limit Music on Its Roof 

Aug 13. Residents lose. ABC Board board threw out the resident's noise measurement because it was not done by licensed acoustics engineer with professional sound meter, and said establishment cannot be unreasonable if a licensee has taken commercially reasonable steps to soundproof  Read the Board's Order.

Jun 25. New residents to encroach on existing noisy nightclubs. A new building at 13th & U NW feeds the argument made by alcohol biz that neighbors should live somewhere else which is being continually ignored by developers

failure to enforce existing regulationsunenforced regulation happens wherever political forces favor business operators.[quotes from John Taylor, American Economic Review, May 2014]

May 18.  Residents of the Palladium complain in vain. electronic ABRA complaint fails and call to 311 produced only a termination.

Albert Einstein once declared, "Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced."  

May 11. Adams Morgan Commissioner Guthrie tells ABC Board “The regulatory bodies that should be in our neighborhood have been falling short — considerably short.” 

May 8. Dupont residents made a settlement agreement for peace, order, and quiet with Rosebar on noise (music).  Rosebar keeps the loud music it wants inside with excellent sound absorbing walls and downward aiming the sub-woofers. Sound tests established the maximum loudness inside that would not be heard outside at the intersection of St Matthews Court (a.k.a. the alley) and N Street where seventy new "luxury" condos are being built.

May 8. self-identified blogger Frymaster: there may, in fact, be an issue with sound, but handheld SPL meters on the sidewalk won’t find it. ... It’s the bass! Pro sound systems have improved massively over the past 20 years, modern, top-level professional subwoofers can reproduce the lowest octaves with far greater power than ever before.  lying in a bed in a quiet apartment, even 50dB of 40 Hz at 120 BPM is gonna annoy the crap out of you.

May 5. Sarah and Abigail testified at the Council Committee on ABRA's Budget that new enforcement is needed, and recommended that ABRA be authorized to study the sound propogation of loud bass-dominated from the nightlclub scene into the residential areas.  

Apr 28. Noise Task Force reported noise in one of fifty tests in Club Central in its first six weeks. But the Dupont residents found about 49 out of fifty in violation. The residents did note that the volume of offensive music has substantially decreased lately.

Apr 21. A deal - Midtown and Dirty Martini (with common owner Michael Romeo) made a Settlement Agreement with the Palladium residents to limit the noisy music from the roofdecks. Needs ABRA review.

Apr 13. Early Sunday evening, boom, boom music from Dirty Martini. See two videos: 1.  walking down the alley from N Street, and 2. phoning ABRA with the music playing behind the bar.

Apr 11. Dupont Circle Citizens Association  passed a resolution of support for the coalition.

Apr 10. Dirty Martini protest hearing bans sound measurements. So, the residents had to rely a broader provision of the law of a number-free "noise disturbance."

Apr 7. ABRA issued an advisory letter that permits settlement agreements without protest. Letter to Cleveland Park Citizens Association.

Apr 6. Dirty Martini pounds out the music early Sunday night to disturb Palladium sleep.  Video clips of propagation of 87dB music playing in Dirty Martini roofdeck:  1.  in the alley behind the club;    2. 50 feet in the alley from the club rear ;  3. alley opening onto N Street;  4.  approaching club streetside entrance.  Resident Peck notified police and ABRA; 911 agreed to dispatch an investigation unit.  

Mar 26. Press release : CM Orange Witnesses Noise from Dupont Circle Clubs

Mar 26. Washington City Paper article by Perry Stein. Dupont Circle Citizens Take on Loud Nightclubs, One Decibel Reading at a Time.

Mar 21. Press Release on Hearing ABRA Hearing Lasts 7 Hours in Dupont Circle Protest

Mar 19. ABRA Protest hearing on re-issuance of license for Ozio nightlcub. Protestants from Palladium Condominiums ask for a mandate to Ozio to contain the music.

Mar 17. InTowner article Newly Formed Neighborhood Group Seeks Ways to Curb Excessive Nightclub Noise  by Ben Lasky

Mar 16. An anonymous DC citizen wrote the Director of ABRA, .... If bars & nightclubs keep the noise indoors, no one will know or care. ... 

Mar 16. DCist blog Restaurant, Bar Noise Crack Down Commences

Mar 16.  Noticeably less noisy. Club Central had noticeably lower dB readings early this AM as the Noise Task Force starts its newly re-committed work. 

Mar 14.   Shhhhhhh! You’re in a D.C. Bar! by Perry Stein in Washington City Paper blogs on the Noise Coalition's pressing the city noise checkers into active investigation. Sarah Peck was quoted: I don't know whether it's all show, or whether it will be a true enforcement, we will be watching and consulting.

Mar 12.  Press release by ABRA ABRA Kicks Off Compliance Campaign on Noise Laws

ABRA fingers DCRA responsibility.  ABRA investigator supervisor answers noise enforcement challenge with "That's a DCRA problem."

Warning notice.  ABRA Director Moosally sent a letter to all licensees  that the Noise Task Force will be conducting noise level checks outside establishments in the coming months against a standard of 60dB(A) limit on sound emissions.

New noise enforcement action. ABRA Director Fred Moosally outlined new noise enforcement action: increased noise checks. The nightclubs spoke up, mostly through the head of the Nightlife Association. 

Despite Promises, Mayor Gray, DC Officials Still Not Enforcing Noise Law in Dupont Circle   The DC Nightlife Noise Coalition walked Club Central on Saturday night, March 8, Recorded disturbing levels of amplified sound emanating from local night clubs.  For the complete story, read our press release March 9.

noise mapClub Central noise sources map shows that two major sources power the disturbances felt by the residents.  The cross-hatched boxes are clubs contributing to the late-night noise. Public bar was not cross-hatched because our inspection of that club showed that they were containing the interior noise.   Ozio was not cross-hatched at the time the map was created but has since proved to also be a source. The large black dots are the two points that act essentially as generators of noise to the nearby residences.  [created by Sarah Peck]

Mar 5. Press Release: Council, Mayor Vow to Control Dupont Circle Club Noise

Feb 20. Mayor Gray's office told Palladium residents that No one should be forced to listen to sustained noise in excess of what the law allows.

Testifiers. February 19, four Palladium residents testified at the annual ABRA Oversight hearing.  We expressed concern that ABRA, DCRA and MPD are not enforcing the DC Noise Control Act.  ABRA Director Moosally admitted the law does limit amplified sound levels to 60 decibels or below.  He also admitted that the Noise Task Force has not visited the Club Central Area despite our complaints and has not issued citations for violations.
for all news, see News and Views

The Beginning

Residents of the Palladium Condominium, located in Dupont Circle, published a White Paper by Sarah Peck,   “The Enforcement of the DC Noise Ordinance To Control Nightclub Noise.”  The Paper presents noise data showing that nightclubs in the Club Central area -- the 1200 blocks of 18th Street and Connecticut Avenue -- are exceeding the statutory limit for amplified noise.   The Paper also urges the Mayor to (1) declare support for the enforcement of the Noise Control Act; (2) appoint an ombudsman to work with residents adversely affected by night club noise and to advise the Mayor; (3) improve enforcement of the law by DCRA, ABRA, and police; (4) revise applicable regulations to prohibit outdoor amplified music by commercial establishments in residential areas.  Comments should be directed to Sarah Peck at contact@dcnightlifenoise.com

Read the entire White Paper (revised Feb 3)

An inspiration, Here I am, surrounded by all kinds of noise (my lodgings overlook a bath-house).   Seneca's letter to Lucilius. (Seneca letter 56.1-2)

Action Needed: Enforce the Noise Control Act:

Our recommendations to the Mahyor:

Contact Us  Write us at contact@dcnightlifenoise.com .

    enjoy the music .............................  and let the family sleep


Published by DC Nightlife Noise Coalition, 1325 - 18th St NW,   e-mail Carl Nelson ...  or  webmaster   Last update Aug 26, 2018