DC Nightlife Noise
TESTIMONY OF SARAH PECK Feb 19, 2014
The DC Noise Control Act prohibits nightclubs from exceeding the
maximum limit of 60dB within a meter of their exterior walls.
This limitation applies to night clubs located in commercial zones,
including in Dupont Circle, without exception.
Yet extremely high levels of amplified sound emanate from nightclubs
around the city.
Using a DCRA noise meter, the group I helped found, the DC Nightlife
Noise Coalition, has documented noise in excess of 93 decibels
emanating from the nightclubs south of Dupont Circle – that’s louder
than a passing train, and a clear violation of the DC Noise Control
This unlawful noise has a negative impact on the lives of area
residents and property values. To those who blame residents for
moving to “Club Central,” I note that the Palladium Condominium was
built in the 1970’s as a residential community, pre-dating the clubs by
more than a decade.
Resident concerns about excess club noise is well-known to the Advisory
Neighborhood Commission 2B, club owners, police, DCRA, and ABRA.
Yet after years of complaints from residents, the authorities
responsible for regulating nightclub noise – DRCA, the police, and ABRA
– have failed to enforce the law.
It seems that the enforcement regime is designed to fail:
DCRA has two noise meters, but the DCRA inspectors
who are trained to use them work only during the day.
The police say they do not have authority to
enforce the DC noise ordinance, and refer late-night callers to
When a resident calls ABRA to complain about club
noise, an ABRA inspector goes to the resident’s home to determine
whether music is audible inside the home, rather than to the nearby
club to determine whether music is audible outside the club. Not
only is this procedure an extreme inconvenience to residents, it has
utterly failed to bring the noise levels down of clubs in in the Dupont
Circle area. Therefore, residents say they have stopped calling ABRA
because they do not get any relief.
The DC Nightlife Noise Coalition expects DC night clubs to comply with
the DC Noise Control Act, which requires them to take reasonable steps
to contain amplified sound. Steps like keeping doors and windows
shut, and not broadcasting dance music from rooftops.
And the Coalition expects Mayor Gray, ABRA Director Fred Moosally, DCRA
Director Majet, and Police Chief Lanier to enforce this law.
New York City, Miami Beach, and other cities successfully enforce
comparable noise limits and still have an active club scene. We
expect the same in the Nation’s Capital.
To see my white paper summarizing DC law, visit