Jun 25. New residents to encroach on existing noisy
nightclubs. A new building at 13th & U NW will have 130 apartments
right on the 14th & U corridor that the ABC Board refused to
protect with a moratorium. The argument made by alcohol biz that
neighbors should live somewhere else is being continually ignored by
developers (who may or may not be advising their new buyers of coming
sleep problems). The ABC Board and the DC Council will have to do
something other than ignore the problem and install barriers to citizen
protest as it has been doing in service to tax revenue.
The main problem was not insufficient
regulations, but a failure to enforce existing regulations. Where?
In DC nightclubs? Yes, mostly, but the quote is about the 2008 financial crisis. While there were
hundreds of regulators and supervisors from the
New York Fed on the premises of the large financial institutions, they evidently allowed these
institutions to deviate from existing safety and soundness rules and thereby take on excessive
Just like noise enforcers in Club Central who need ear protection as
they find no noise violations. Of course, unenforced regulation
happens wherever political forces favor business operators.[quotes from John Taylor, American Economic Review, May 2014]
May 18. Residents of the Palladium again heard the booming
bass music of Club Central during the Sunday daytime and into the
sleeping hours after 10:30PM. An attempt to file an electronic ABRA
complaint produced a notice that the complaint must be dated not
earlier than the next day (Monday). A call to 311 produced only a
termination of the call before any office was reached. Clearly, the
complaint system does not want to hear from residents. The only
recourse then is to use 911 - a critical emergency network - for
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. The regulatory view in Adams Morgan in an ABC Board
there was general
agreement that city alcohol
authorities have not adequately enforced license regulations in the
moratorium area. At one point during the hearing, board member Hector
Rodriguez drew applause from the 50 or so people in the room when he
asked whether the current moratorium would be effective if his board
came down harder on violators. Ted Guthrie, the Adams
Morgan neighborhood commissioner who opposed his colleagues’ proposal,
said he doesn’t believe new rules would be enforced. “The regulatory
bodies that should be in our neighborhood have been falling short —
considerably short,” he said [Dupont Current, May 14]
May 8. Dupont residents made a settlement agreement for
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 Frymaster,
commenting on a Mark Lee opinion piece in Washington Blade, shed more
light on why
Club Central residents are bothered by so much noise:
Long story short: there may, in fact, be an issue with
but handheld SPL meters on the sidewalk won’t find it. That said, maybe
people who don’t like nightlife shouldn’t live in the nightclub
I’m no fuddy-duddy. You don’t mix rock bands and set up
the same ‘cuz you plan on going to church the next morning. But you
also learn a thing or two about acoustics along the way. I don’t know
the details of the complaints, but I can guess what’s really behind
this. It’s actually stupendously common.
It’s the bass! Pro sound systems have improved massively
the past 20 years, as anyone who goes to a good club could tell you.
Specifically, modern, top-level professional subwoofers
Funktion One, Avalon (EAW) and Fulcrum can reproduce the lowest octaves
— from 20 – 80 Hz — with far greater power than ever before. (You know
I’m not lyin’.) Modern technique is to “bunker” the subs in concrete
and sand if possible to maximize the output. Altogether, this generates
an ungodly amount of acoustical energy that get into the foundations of
the building and then into whatever is beneath that.
Unlike sound in the air that decays pretty quickly, sound
travels through solids much more efficiently, so it decays over a
longer distance. These super powerful, super long sound waves can
easily travel a couple hundred feet into the foundations of surrounding
buildings. Yes, they can be on the next block. Once they get into these
other buildings, the energy travels all through the structure, yes, up
many floors of a high rise. The rooms then act as resonators.
The bad news is that there really isn’t a fix. A
on Folsom St in SF has spent significant money trying to isolate their
subs and with very little effect.
So, yeah, the SPL meter on the sidewalk shows an average
in a moderate range. But lying in a bed in a quiet apartment, even 50dB
of 40 Hz at 120 BPM is gonna annoy the crap out of you.
The pounding subwoofer on open roofdecks was not part of the
world when the Noise Control Act was enacted decades ago. And the low
frequencies also propagate in air something like 30 times stronger than
high frequencies before they reach the upper parts of the residential
buldings where they then penetrate the bedrooms. The World Health
Organization has recommended new standards for sleep protection in low
frequency noise environments that call for using the C-scale for
measuring disturbing noise full force instead of the diminished force
of the standard A-scale. To record
bass birds singing, use a bass-sensitive meter. To detect
whether any one bird is too loud needs a new enforcement scheme. If
that's too hard to invent, a blanket limit on sound generation on open
decks would lower every club's disturbance of the peace. Our age of
seemingly unlimited technology invention can surely produce a solution
fair to all.
May 5. Sarah and Abigail testified at the Council Committee
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. Birds of a feather
together. The re-juvenated Noise Task Force reported on its
weeks with a report of ten noise violations from 191 checks of various
nightlife clubs. Which the kibitzers quickly accepted as a
passing grade and a clue that the noise isn't so bad. But
the Dupont residents of the DC Nightlife Coalition found six clubs in
constant violation of the 60 dB maximum on almost every visit over a
three month period. That's about 49 out of fifty in violation.
Which shows a serious flaw in enforcement that systemically defines
deviancy down. A serious debate followed between the regulators
and the residents. The residents did note that the volume of
offensive music has substantially decreased lately
as negotiations with the clubs over protests against their license move
toward and into Settlement Agreements that lets the clubs play their
hearing-damaging music without disturbing the residents' sleep. The
regulators admitted that they need to adjust to the reality of multiple
loud music sources instead of allowing birds of a feather to sing
together as a group defense of behavior that would be found illegal if
only one were doing it.
Apr 21. A deal - Midtown and Dirty Martini (with common
Michael Romeo) made a Settlement Agreement with the Palladium residents
to limit the noisy music from the roofdecks. That
means 60dB as required by the Noise Control Act, with the owner
installing enough sound mitigation materials to get an 80dB room down
to emanating no more than 60 dB. And periodic sound checks that the
music cannot be heard on N Street where the 70 new condos are in
construction. When ABRA completes the inclusion of the agreement as a
part of the clubs' licenses, the agreement will be publicly available.
Apr 13. Early Sunday evening, boom, boom music from Club
Central. This time the source was unmistakeable - the only open
nightclub: Dirty Martini. Although that finding needed
investigation because of the echoing in the neighborhood. But the alley
behind the club was jumping to the music. No numbers, please, the law
forbids mere citizens from measuring the noise. See two videos:
1. walking down the alley
from N Street, and 2. phoning
ABRA with the music playing behind the bar. Too bad, ABRA doesn't
work on Sunday night.
Apr 11. Dupont Circle Citizens Association passed a
of support for the coalition:
membership voted to endorse the new Nightlife Noise Coalition in its
efforts to improve enforcement of the District’s Noise Law. Coalition
co-founder Abigail Nichols, who serves as Dupont ANC Commissioner for
2B-05, accepted accolades from the membership and President Estrada for
bringing media attention to the noise problems of the “Club Central”
area just south of Dupont Circle park. A resolution was passed
unanimously. [DCCA Minutes]
Apr 10. Mother may I go
swim? / Yes, my darling daughter./ Hang your clothes on a hickory
limb,/ but don't go near the water.
When a career scientist uses a DC-government instrument to record sound
levels outside a DC nightclub -- a meter that takes no more technical
skill to operate than the ability to turn the TV on and off and find a
station -- the DC law forbids the resulting
measured sound pressures to be used in any legal or administrative
action against the nightclub. An almost perfect shield for nightclubs
to flout any legal restrictions on their assault on the public
The defensive shield was invoked by the Dirty Martini
Dupont Circle in an ABRA Protest Hearing on license renewal against a
group of residents who could demonstrate disturbance of their sleep by
the nightclub. And so the residents had to rely a broader provision of
the law of a number-free "noise disturbance."
Meanwhile, a proudly re-announced DC Noise Task Force is
same meter apparently to find no violations of any DC noise law by any
nightclub. The nightclubs deserve a perfect score for political
inducing the politicians to enact such a law and the politicians
deserve brickbats for knowingly disarming their own constituents. The
politician who was elected by these Dupont residents deserves a special
brickbat for never lifting his tongue or his finger to help these
attacked residents. Nevertheless, the residents danced in the pantomime
to enliven the "noise disturbance" approach in the ABC Board's mind.
in the next ninety days the Board will issue a ruling while all the six
nightclubs with open roofdecks in Club Central pour more loud music
into the residents' homes.
The protest pantomime raises some interesting tactical and
questions. The owner did not testify at all and the attorney
played hardball at every turn as the residents recited first person
accounts of an impossibly impenetrable non-enforcement system.
The board, however is made of older responsible and experienced people,
who probably do not see the stark black-and-white coldly impersonal
world that the nighclub showed where the residents effectively have no
way to seek redress. By shutting the door to compromise by not
even allowing it to be mentioned, nor the numbers that could make part
of a base for negotitaion even to be mentioned, the club pushed the
board to find its own way to equity in the face of an uncooperative
operator with a clean record in a world where every operator has a
clean record on noise because equitable enforcement with penalties does
not even exist. If the residents and the operator do not find a
compromise before the board rules, the huge field of nightclub
operators in the District may find a new world being born.
Apr 7. Deal without
ABRA issued an advisory letter to a citizens group that
permits settlement agreements with alcohol busineses without going
through messy protest procedures. Letter to Cleveland Park
The whole protest process raises a high wall of process whenever
residents object to an alcohol businesses planned or actual operation.
Although the official rules place the burden of proof on the business,
the practicalities make that burden a fiction and the residents have
the effective burden of convincing a politically appointed board
dedicated to making alcohol business a successful District enterprise
to act against any business promising more tax revenue.
Apr 6. Dirty Martini pounds out the music early Sunday night
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
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
contain the music.
Mar 17. InTowner article Newly
Formed Neighborhood Group Seeks Ways to Curb Excessive Nightclub
by Ben Lasky
Mar 16. Thank
you, concerned citizen: An anonymous DC citizen wrote the
Director of ABRA,
You're going to
act! A long-time DC resident, I like the bustle of city life
am totally sanguine about the occasional loud drunk(s). The
problem you're addressing is different.
If bars &
nightclubs keep the noise indoors, no one will know or care.
Mrs. Patrick Campbell famously said about Oscar Wilde's trial, I don't
what people do as long as they don't do it in the streets where it
frightens the horses. Again, thank you.
And to Sarah Peck wrote, You're
the one who warrants thanks. They moved because you deftly applied
pressure and logic.
Mar 16. DCist blog Restaurant,
Bar Noise Crack Down Commences
Mar 16. Noticeably less noisy. Club Central had
lower dB readings early this AM as the Noise Task Force starts its
newly re-committed work. The occasion was an education tour
curious local reporter from Washington City Paper. Could be
simple fear of the unknown or a report that loud music bars could be
assessed a penalty and a resultant black mark that could have an impact
on their license. We don't know as the ABRA process remains opaque.
Mar 14. Shhhhhhh!
a D.C. Bar! by Perry Stein in Washington City Paper blogs on
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
Campaign on Noise Laws
A standing start.
an ANC ABRA Committee meeting, an ABRA investigator person came to tell
about the new thing with the Noise Task Force. He
droned on about meetings, and inter-agency cooperation, and the present
process for finding noise violations. An audience member posed a
hypothetical situation: an ABRA investigator walking down the
street in clubland hears music coming out of a licensed establishment.
What does he do? If
the door is open, ask the owner to close it. OK, now the
can still be heard on the other side of the street; what
Ask the owner to turn the volume down. And if the owner
refuses? .... Answer: That's a DCRA
problem. A police
lieutenant in the audience said the police would not cite the owner
either because they would need a complicated procedure with a sound
meter to establish "ambient" as a baseline. The ABRA part of the
NoiseTask Force is off to a standing start. Meanwhile, all three
members of the committee said that many residents complain about the
Director Moosally sent a letter
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 action.
Fred Moosally at a public meeting outlined new noise enforcement
action: There will be
noise checks starting this Thursday in
many areas, including this [Dupont Circle] neighborhood.
Business will not be informed beforehand. From Thursday to
evenings only, from 10pm until 3am. The meeting also heard
2d District Police Commander Reece and a manager from DCRA.
nightclubs spoke up, mostly through the head of the Nightlife
Association. The promise is less bothersome noise, but no
yet on the nasty real problem of sorting out blame among multiple
simultaneous competitive noise generators. We
hopeful but wary as ABC Control Board Member Mike Silverstein reminded
everyone twice that hospitality generates $400M a year for the District
in taxes and should not be endangered lightly.
Promises, Mayor Gray, DC
Officials Still Not Enforcing Noise Law in Dupont Circle
The DC Nightlife Noise Coalition took a walk in Club Central on
Saturday night, March 8, from midnight to 2 am. We recorded
disturbing levels of amplified sound emanating from local night
clubs. For the complete story, read our press release March 9.
For an audio-visual visit to the noise hot spots:
- Click Rosebar
video recording 90 decibels dB(A)
to see our
video of club music
emanating from Rosebar, on Connecticut Avenue. That’s nearly
times the legal limit, as loud as a
train roaring past.
Ozio video inside recording 101 decibels dB(A) to
video of night club music
playing on Ozio's
open-roof dance club, on M Street. That’s the sound of a jet
taking off. It doesn’t take a sound
engineer to know that allowing 101 decibels of sound to escape into the
night – and into the surrounding residential neighborhood -- exceeds
the legal limit of 60 decibels (the sound of a
conversation). And like the roar of a jet overhead,
- Click Ozio
video block away at 72 decibels dB(A) to see our video of how
Ozio’s sound travels
measured 72 decibels from half a city-block away on the roof of the
Jefferson Row Condominiums. And we measured 81
decibels at the base of the club,Ozio
video in alley at 81 decibels three stories below in the
For more information, contact Sarah Peck at
443-240-4435. Or visit www.dcnightlifenoise.com
Central noise sources map
shows that two major sources power the disturbances felt by the
residents. The cross-hatched boxes are clubs contributing to
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
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
nearby residences. [created by Sarah Peck]
Mar 5. Press Release
Council, Mayor Vow to Control Dupont Circle Club Noise
the Palladium residents
that No one should be
sustained noise in excess of what the law allows.
Noise Task Force will
be restarting its
enforcement efforts in the next several weeks and your neighborhood
will be one of the primary areas targeted to check whether licensed
establishments are complying with the District’s noise laws. Prior to
the beginning of the Noise Task
Force’s enforcement efforts, licensed alcohol establishments will be
receiving a letter from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation
Administration advising them of (1) the District’s noise provisions
that they are required to follow and (2) that the multi-agency Noise
Task Force will be checking licensed establishments for compliance.
We thank the mayor for hearing our demand for enforcement and
we ask if
the other candidates will equally commit to enforcement of DC laws.
February 19, a panel of residents of the Palladium provided
public testimony at the annual Performance and Budget Oversight hearing
held by the DC Council on the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation
Administration. (in photo, l to r Melissa Stanley, Tom
Sarah Peck, Abigail Nichols) We expressed concern
Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs chaired by
Vincent Orange that ABRA, DCRA and MPD are not enforcing the DC Noise
Control Act. Testimony Peck
Later during agency testimony in response to
Chairman Orange's questioning, 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
At the urging of Orange, Director Moosally made the following
commitments at the hearing: (1) a letter will be sent to all
licensees citywide explaining the law, including the 60 decibel limit;
(2) ABRA, in cooperation with other agencies, will enforce this law,
and (3) Moosally with keep the DC Nightlife Noise Coalition and the
Oversight Committee informed on progress.
The DC Nightlife Noise Coalition is pleased with this
Sarah Peck met with Moosally after the hearing and offered to serve as
a resource to ensure effective enforcement. Committee Chair Orange said
he would visit Club
early one Saturday morning for a first hand view, and said he hoped he
would not see the conditions described by Melissa Stanley.
Residents of the Palladium Condominium, located in Dupont
published a White Paper by Sarah Peck, “The
Enforcement of the DC Noise Ordinance To Control Nightclub
Noise.” The Paper presents noise data showing
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)
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
Seneca's letter to Lucilius. (Seneca letter 56.1-2)