The west side of the 3600 block of Georgia Avenue.
On May 5, 2015, Councilmember Vincent Orange introduced the Nightlife Regulation Amendment Act of 2015 (Bill B21-0196). As introduced, “this bill requires that certain establishments licensed to sell alcohol shall measure the noise levels outside of their establishments using a decibel meter once an hour between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. The noise measurements must be submitted to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) on a weekly basis. Noncompliance can result in a warning for the first offense, a fine between $500 and $1000 for a second offense, a suspended license for the 3rd offense, and revocation for a fourth offense. The requirement applies to establishments holding C/R, C/N, C/T, D/R, D/T and D/N licenses.”
Upon learning about this bill — and its attempt to address noise coming from restaurants, bars, and taverns through self regulation by business owners — I immediately saw this as a bad bill (read my June Issues Spotlight on noise here). It would be an undue hardship for our good small businesses and the problem businesses owners would find ways around the self reporting aspect. In reflecting on how 11th Street, Upshur Street, and (recently on) Georgia Avenue started to revitalize due to the small business owners in the hospitality industry, the particulars of Oranges’ bill seemed particularly nonsensical. Looking Glass Lounge, Room 11, Crane and Turtle, Maple, and DC Reynolds (to name very few), are not the problem. These are good businesses that know their customers and engage in the community. These are precisely the businesses we need to attract other good businesses, and the businesses that often proceed or attract retail.
At the June 10th meeting of ANC 1A (as already noted by Borderstan and the District Hopper), I introduced a resolution opposing the Nightlife Regulation Amendment Act of 2015 … and I’m happy to say that the Commission passed the resolution overwhelmingly by a vote of 8-0 with one abstention.
I do agree with Mr. Orange that the city can do more to address noise issues — particularly by beefing up our construction code to mitigate noise in new construction before noise even becomes an issue. Or, by establishing standards for sound abatement in replacement windows for buildings located in Commercial corridors. There is a lot that can be done proactively that D.C. just isn’t doing. This is precisely why I’m taking a deep dive into the Construction code and comparing it with other jurisdictions to document best practices that would make sense in D.C. For me, maintaining the communities quality of life does not and should not be accomplished through laws hostile to small businesses, but rather through improved construction and the use of new technologies.
The hearing on the Nightlife Regulation Amendment Act of 2015 is scheduled for July 9th. Those wishing to testify or submit written comments can find instructions to do so in the Announcement of the Public Hearing.