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DC Councilman Wants Bars To Measure Noise Level Hourly, Report To Government

If one District of Columbia councilman gets his way, business owners in the city would be forced to submit mounds of new paperwork to the city about noise levels in their bars.

City councilman Vincent Orange introduced the legislation earlier this month. It would force any establishment with a liquor license to measure noise levels emanating from their business on an hourly basis between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. every night they are open.

In addition, the businesses will be required to record the levels on a paper form and submit the form to the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration at the end of each week.

Those businesses that failed to comply with the paperwork requirements would face a warning for the first violation, a fine between $500 and $1,000 for the second, a 15 day suspension of their liquor license for the third and a revocation of their license for the fourth.

The legislation appears to have stemmed from complaints by a group of four citizens calling themselves the D.C. Nightlife Noise Coalition, which, according to its website, formed to “promote the enforcement of DC’s noise ordinance for nightclubs.”

The problem, the group says, centers around a group of seven clubs in the DuPont Circle neighborhood of the city that they dubbed “Club Central,” that feature open air lounges and roof decks. These establishments play music that disturbs the sleep of nearby residents, the group claims.

“The World Health Organization finds that such music disturbs sleep to the extent of damaging health,” the group’s website reads. “DC noise law blindly rolls all the possible sounds into one legal maximum allowed sound level but then fails to enforce even that law.”

They claim the clubs regularly violate the city’s noise law, which only allows a maximum sound volume of 60 decibels, or roughly the level of a typical dishwasher running.

The group wasn’t satisfied with the proposed regulations, though.

In a letter sent to the council, it said it wanted the D.C. Council to expressly limit the hours of operation for summer beer gardens and sidewalk cafes and flat out ban permits for DJs or “music suitable for dancing in outdoor spaces.”

The bill doesn’t appear to be garnering much support in the council, however, as it only picked up one co-sponsor, Mary Cheh, and that was by accident. She mistakenly raised her hand during the council meeting and didn’t get her name removed before the deadline.

Request for comment from Orange’s office was not returned in time for publishing of this story.

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