DC Nightlife Noise

February 18, 2014

Fred Moosally, Director

Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration

of the District of Columbia   


Re: Task Force Enforcement in Club Central

Dear Director Moosally,

Thank you for meeting with us recently.  We appreciate that you asked us to share our enforcement priorities for the Task Force with you.  Our recommendations are below.

Recommendation 1: Enforce the Law

We are focused on one issue: amplified sound.  In talking to local club owners and their sound engineers, it has become apparent that they don’t understand the legal requirements imposed by the DC Noise Control Act.  Therefore, we support your proposal to send a letter to all licensed clubs.  This letter should inform them that exterior sound must be reduced to 60 db(A) and that ABRA will begin enforcing that requirement. 

We recommend that as requirement for obtaining and keeping a license, you require clubs to develop a “Noise Act Compliance Plan” that details how they will contain amplified sound, and reduce sound in exterior spaces.  ABRA inspectors should review plans with clubs during licensing and re-licensing periods, and when ABRA receives complaints from residents. 

Recommendation 2: Prohibit Amplified Sound on Roof Decks and Patios

Serious problems arise when clubs play amplified music in open spaces, such as “summer gardens,” roof decks, and patios.  Going forward, ABRA should prohibit the use of amplified sound in these spaces.  Businesses can still use these spaces for smoking, dining, and talking, but not for playing club volume music.  (Thanks to new technology, they can still play music at any decibel level that can be heard only by patrons wearing “ear buds”). 

We therefore recommend that the Task Force focus first on clubs that are known to be playing loud amplified music on/in open spaces.  In our area, these clubs are Ozio, Midtown, Dirty Martini, Rosebar, and 18th Street Lounge. Heist is a problem because it keeps its door open. And we know that Bar Code is another problem club nearby.  Each of these clubs should be required to develop a Noise Act Compliance Plan.

Since we met with you, we have met successfully with Michel Romeo, the owner of Midtown and Dirty Martini.  He has voluntarily reduced exterior noise levels on his roof decks. We met with Public Bar, and do not believe that they are in violation of the law.  We are meeting with Rosebar and 18th Street Lounge and hope to have success with them as well.  ABRA could support our efforts by requiring all of these owners to commit to the noise level adjustments they have made in a binding settlement agreement as part of the re-licensing process.  We also need your help to force Ozio to bring down sound levels played on the roof deck.

Recommendation 3: Modify the ABRA Enforcement Protocol

Revise ABRA’s inspection protocol to allow ABRA investigators to go directly to nearby clubs to respond to complaints of excessive amplified sound.  We believe that violations of the DC Noise Control Act will be easier to enforce if every club provides a Noise Act Compliance Plan that can be enforced by an ABRA inspector.  Sound checks should be performed during the day, when DCRA inspectors are on duty and no other clubs are playing music.  However, if an ABRA inspector goes to a club in response to a call and can hear loud music emanating from the club, the club is presumptively in violation of the law. The music should be turned down immediately and the inspector should issue a citation.

In conclusion, your express and public commitment to enforcing the DC Noise Control Act is an important first step.  In addition, we would like to meet with Task Force members to discuss our recommendations and to understand its enforcement approach.  We look forward to working with ABRA to bring sound levels down to acceptable, legal levels in our community.


The DC Nightlife Noise Coalition

Cc:      Abigail Nichols ANC2B05

Carl Nelson

Sarah Peck                      

Jim King, President, Palladium Condominium                                                                                     

Ramon Estrada, President, Dupont Circle Citizens Association              

Robin Diener, Chair, DCCA Regulatory Committee

Steve Coniglio, MHI/IDG N Street Ventures LLC                                                           Will Stephens, Chair, ANC 2B