New Noise Task Force Launches with unannounced visits to bars and restaurants between 10pm-3am

Photo by PoPville flickr user clif_burns

From ABRA:

“The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) is encouraging ABC licensees of restaurants, taverns, nightclubs, hotels and multipurpose facilities to learn about and comply with D.C. noise laws.

District ABC noise laws (D.C. Official Code 25-725) prohibit on-premise establishments from producing any sound, noise, or music of such intensity that it can be heard in any premises other than the licensed establishment with a few exceptions, which includes areas that are in certain commercial zones.

The Noise Control Act prohibits individuals and businesses from generating noise outside their property that exceeds maximum noise levels of 60 decibels in commercial or light-manufacturing zones at nighttime. Other limits include 55-70 decibels depending on the area and time of day.

ABRA recommends ABC on-premise establishments regularly verify whether they are compliant with District noise laws by listening outside their establishment to ensure noise is not emanating from the premises.

As part of the campaign, ABRA has sent letters to on-premise establishments and posted information on its website about noise law compliance. In addition, officials from the Noise Task Force—a joint initiative between ABRA, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)—will be increasing unannounced visits to establishments during the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.

During compliance checks, officials from DCRA stand outside of establishments with a sound meter and take a number of readings to establish the decibel level of the sound emanating from businesses. Businesses will be notified by officials if they are exceeding noise limits. DCRA will issue a warning for a first-time offense of the Noise Control Act. A second offense of the Noise Control Act will result in a citation from DCRA, which is a $1,000 fine.
In addition to these checks, members of the Noise Task Force will continue to respond to noise complaints. Members of the public can file a noise complaint about an ABC licensed establishment online or call (202) 329-6347. ABC licensees and the public can visit ABRA’s website to learn more about District noise laws.”

32 Comment

  • Read about this already on the the Wallach Place listserve. Go figure.

  • Here’s an idea: Instead of DCRA actively going around harassing businesses and late-night revelers, people who have an issue with noise should go through the proper channels and lodge complaints, as they are currently supposed to do. Sheeeshhh

    • How about businesses keep their noise to a decent level, like responsible citizens are expected to do?

      • Hear hear! We’ve been trying to “go through the proper channels” (which, by the way, are impossible to decipher) with our local neighborhood bar for the last six months, and absolutely ZERO has been done. I finally had to escalate to the City Council to even get a response that was remotely helpful, but we still have a long way to go. Additionally, the bar in our neighborhood paid absolutely no heed to the neighbors when they launched their business, so I don’t feel bad at all about them being “harassed” by a government entity that didn’t do their job in the first place.

    • I’m a huge proponent of nightlife, but ABRA is actually waaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind the curve on this. In NYC, they’ve been doing this for at least 15 years and the fines are MUCH steeper.
      $1000 ain’t much for the establishments that will actually be producing this level of noise. The low fine makes me think that this is just another cost-of-doing business that clubs/bars will build into their expenses.

    • gotryit

      Just like any other law – the city should only do anything about people / businesses violating laws when someone calls to complain about it. (/sarcasm)

      • How is what ABRA doing any different than a speed trap set by police or the red light cameras? ABRA is trying to keep the peace in the community.

    • Why should they wait until someone complains? If these bars are breaking the rules then they should be fined, regardless of whether people are vocal about it.

      • Because the whole point of a nuisance law is that it’s being violated when it causes a nuisance to people. If no one’s complaining, then who’s being bothered by it?

        • gotryit

          1. people who don’t know where to complain
          2. people who have completely lost faith in those to whom we complain
          3. people who are annoyed by it, but are trying to get a screaming toddler back to bed and have other things to do with their time

          • They just have to call 9-1-1…A five second Google search fielded that answer.

          • gotryit

            Congratulations on your mental superiority over the vast underclass of people in DC who aren’t as intelligent as you. Please pat yourself on the back.
            Oh, then realize that calling 9-1-1 will actually not accomplish much. Most of the time, it will result in a police cruiser driving by. A small percentage of the time, the police officer will actually talk to someone, to no effect. Maybe that will help if you call repeatedly over a long period of time, but probably only if you go in a different direction as well. Read #2 above.

        • Actually, that’s not the whole point of this (or any law, for that matter). Laws such as this can have a number of intended outcomes, including the prevention of certain behavior before it gets out of hand. By your logic, theft should be legal as long as the victim is large or wealthy enough not to notice it. I mean, the whole point of anti-theft laws is so that no one is deprived of property, right? What if the victim doesn’t notice it on the balance sheet?

          • That analogy is absurd. And beyond that, good outcomes of having a law does not a purpose make. Try again. That is not how laws are made.

  • Appropriate to include a picture of Nellies here, there have been times I have heard their music from a block away.

    • It’s that atrocious disco thing they always have up on the roof.

    • only one block?

    • So what? The ordinance has nothing to do with whether you can hear the noise while standing outside on the street. Having gone to Nellie’s, I can assure you, you can hear the loud a$$ people on U Street just as clearly as any noise from the roof deck. It’s a business district.

      • But the fact that it’s Pet Shop Boys remixes on repeat up there makes it ten times worse.

      • “So what?” So, the law is, the music they play for their customers should only be audible on their premises. Common sense also says that if you’re playing music for your customers, not people a block away, people a block away should have to hear it. This is the same reason why they ask people to wear headphones on the Metro. *You* might love hearing Lil’ Durk, but that doesn’t mean everyone on the bus you’re riding on has to hear it with you.

  • IMBY DC had a good post about how 60 decibels is basically quieter than the average background noise of the city.

    • Exactly. Proactively going after businesses based on dB sounds like a cash grab as pretty much any place with outdoor seating and alcohol will be in violation.

      • Meh. If the city doesn’t enforce rules someone complains; if the city does, someone complains. Always the same descriptions too: incompetence and negligence if it’s the first, greedy cash grab if it’s the second. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…. If you don’t like it, at least complain about the rule, not the enforcement.

    • Seriously how do you measure the sound from a single business on U, H or 18th type streets?

  • I’ll be damned. ABRA, actually being all competent and stuff. I assume this means that pigs will now have full access to the terminals at Reagan, now that they have all apparently sprouted wings and started to fly? Which, along with free unicorn rides on the National Mall, I was confident would happen before ABRA ever did anything sensible…

  • does this apply to churches too? I can hear the one near me all the way down the block.

    • gotryit

      I don’t think that churches in DC are subject to any laws. They pretty much do whatever they want, and the city looks the other way.

      • Totally! Churches are the worst neighbors. They think parking regulations don’t apply to them, they think noise ordinance don’t apply to them, they think construction codes don’t belong to them. For some reason they think they’re God’s gift to humanity!!!

  • I registered a complaint about a restaurant’s HVAC system, and DCRA hasn’t responded. I’m not concerned about their patrons or music, but the rickety ass HVAC system drones so loud I can’t shut it out with the doors and windows closed. Every other business seems to be able to keep their system relatively muted, but Ercilia’s HVAC system is incredibly annoying. Anyone notice it?

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