In response to a working draft issued by District C City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, the Bourbon Street Alliance (BSA) has drafted an ordinance to combat noise in the French Quarter. Palmer's office said another draft may be ready later this month, pending review of more than 100 pages of public comments submitted since the draft was posted earlier this year.
The BSA sent Palmer's office its draft ordinance proposing regulations for the placement of speakers in businesses. (The French Quarter Business Association also is submitting comment.) Nicole Webre, Palmer's legislative director, told Gambit there is no primary target or "biggest offender" in Palmer's draft ordinance, though she says "T-shirt shops and non-entertainment business establishments" that direct music to the street are a problem in both the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny. The trick, Webre says, is balancing entertainment within mixed-use neighborhoods — not unplugging music in neighborhoods like the French Quarter that also are residential.
"Some people have an incorrect notion that amending the current noise ordinance will shut down businesses and silence music," Webre says. "This could not be further from the truth. This is an opportunity to improve the current legislation."
Webre said the proposed maximum decibel levels allowed are the same — or higher — than what is now in place. Current U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards allow for a maximum of 85 decibels over eight hours. There are no distinctions in the draft, however, between canned music and live music, on or off the street. Last year, New Orleans Police Department 8th District Maj. Commander Edwin Hosli told Gambit he received consistent complaints from residents in his district about loud and live music. The TBC Brass Band, a staple at the corner of Bourbon and Canal streets, was also told last year to clear the street by 8 p.m., though the rule has since been relaxed.
"The current draft sound ordinance is still a work in progress and no one expects it to be perfect as a working draft," Webre says. "We needed to start with something and then expand on that, so a draft was created and proposed to get the discussion going. This whole process has been long and arduous but exciting and even empowering for many people and organizations who have felt they haven't had a voice or they haven't been able to weigh in on a legislative process." — Alex Woodward