Death Knell of the Live Music Capital of the World
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By etrigan - Last updated: Friday, June 12, 2009 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Many Austinites have been stewing over sound ordinances, and it looks like things are coming to a full boil. The “initial laws”:http://www.nonoise.org/lawlib/cities/austin.htm, in 1994, were written with a reasonable intent to keep noise pollution to a minimum. They were eventually tweaked to include specific rules about decibel levels, and “recent changes”:http://www.austinsound.net/2009/04/16/did-city-council-surreptitiously-screw-live-music-in-austin/ went so far as to define the difference between a “live music venue” and a restaurant.

I tend to find the middle ground in most arguments, so I understand the people who legitimately are upset when a nearby restaurant expands to an outdoor patio and wants to have bands play in the evening. However many “restaurants” that have been playing live music for, at least, the seventeen years that I have lived in Austin are starting to be ticketed and even forced to stop active shows. Locals want to decry carpetbaggers who move into quaint parts of town, removing local color, but I suspect there are also several long-time residents who are using the police to punish popular businesses that have done a poor job of crowd control. (How would you feel if the only open parking on your block was _your_ driveway, and it was often half-blocked by shiny new hybrid?)

Whatever the case, the Mayor and City Council need to quickly resolve these issues. My recommendation would be to establish grandfather exemptions for locations (streets, neighborhoods or specific businesses) that are established live music venues (including restaurants), and allow them to be louder for specific windows. For example, give *Shady Grove* a 20 decibel leniency until 10:00pm Wednesday and Thursday, and until 2:00am Friday and Saturday.

You can read more about the issues in “Kevin Russell (of The Gourds)’s letter to the Austin Chronicle”:http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/ReaderComments/?ContainerID=790862, this “discussion at Yelp”:http://www.yelp.com/topic/austin-noise-complaint-shuts-down-unplugged-at-the-grove, and this “blog by Michael Corcoran’s”:http://www.austin360.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/music/entries/2009/06/11/noise_complaint_shuts_down_unp.html.

*Even better, you should DO SOMETHING* to let the council know your opinion on the matter. I have written a letter that I’m sending to each of the upcoming council members, and the new mayor (who start their new jobs on June 20th) that I will link to below. If you feel ambitious, please print these out, fill in your name and mail them to City Hall at:

P. O. Box 1088
Austin, Texas 78767

or you can contact them “from the council website”:http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/default.htm. Feel free to cut/paste from my letters directly into the forms provided. Right now, you can only contact incumbents “Mike Martinez”:http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/connect/email_mikemartinez.htm, “Randi Shade”:http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/connect/email_randishade.htm, “Laura Morrison”:http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/connect/email_lauramorrison.htm, “Sheryl Cole”:http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/connect/email_sherylcole.htm, and incoming mayor (former council member) “Lee Leffingwell”:http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/connect/email_leeleffingwell.htm.

My letters are available here:
* “Lee Leffingwell”:/backporchbeer/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/LeeLeffingwellNoiseOrdinance.htm
* “Mike Martinez”:/backporchbeer/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/MikeMartinezNoiseOrdinance.htm
* “Randi Shade”:/backporchbeer/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/RandiShadeNoiseOrdinance.htm
* “Laura Morrison”:/backporchbeer/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/LauraMorrisonNoiseOrdinance.htm
* “Sheryl Cole”:/backporchbeer/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/SherylColeNoiseOrdinance.htm
* “Bill Spelman”:/backporchbeer/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/BillSpelmanNoiseOrdinance.htm
* “Chris Riley”:/backporchbeer/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/ChrisRileyNoiseOrdinance.htm

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, journalist or even a very good researcher. Any legal matters discussed above are based on my scant online research, but I believe they are correct.

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