Noise Ordinance Stirs Downtown Divide

"Music gives a soul to the universe." Plato 

The Burg is divided on another aspect of our city. The latest issue hitting the the city council is a new proposed noise ordinance. This ordinance would require bars that have an outdoor element or noise that spills out to the street to shut down the music by 11pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends reports Creative Loafing

Part of St. Pete's renewed charm and recent acclaim as a home and incubator for the arts is its thriving nightlife and culture. Artists and bands such as Betty Fox, Selwyn Birchwood, Geri X, RedFeather, The Applebutter Express, Kasondra Rose, Wolf-Face and others have transformed the downtown culture for the better.

Our recognition as an arts town has drawn young professionals to the area and inspired entrepreneurs to set up shop here. The boom has sparked several annual festivals including the upcoming Burgatory Festival (May 23) which takes over the entire 600 Block of Central Avenue. 

 

Our local artists are part of the reason St. Pete has become a desirable place for touring artists. Over the past year and a half the Arctic Monkeys, Bastille, Alt J, Tyler, The Creator, The Punch Brothers, Queens of the Stone Age, Interpol and Minus The Bear have all performed in St. Pete. To put any kind of filter or restriction on live music downtown could prove to be a deterrent for future acts.

There has been a significant reaction in the St. Pete community. Business owners in the EDGE District, Grand Central District, the 200 Block on Central Avenue and all over the city haven't been shy about voicing their opinions. Neither have residents. So far over 6,000 St. Pete citizens have signed a petition to shoot down the ordinance.

"It is part of this area that makes it a vibrant eating and music listening scene. To force these businesses to "close" their doors will increase air conditioning, serving and construction costs and reduce patronage," writes resident John Greene.

Another concerned citizen, Hayley Hollinger, writes "a ban would stifle the music scene which carries a lot of weight for the area."

"Business and financial impact must be considered! I spend a lot of time downtown and entertainment is a major reason. Music and events bring a lot of money [to the city] and keeps our downtown vibrant for locals and tourists," writes Emily Drews. 

Today, May 12,  at 3pm City Council will hold a public meeting in the conference room at City Hall. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss possible alternatives to the proposed noise ordinance.

For those who feel such regulation would diminish the character and growth of the city of St. Pete, we encourage you attend the meeting today and make your voice heard.

The other side of this argument should not be ignored, either. While moving to a downtown home should come with the understanding and anticipation of a loud atmosphere, many residents moved to the area before the big arts boom in the city. Council members, business owners and residents alike are seeking a compromise that respects both views.

Decibal readers were proposed at earlier meetings reports the Tampa Bay Times but the concept was shot down. Officers had attempted to use them in the past and found they frequently malfunctioned and were ineffective in gauging noise levels.

As the Burg's population changes, so does its aesthetic. What we can hope for is an outcome that is respectful towards downtown residents while maintaining fairness to businesses. The fate of the ordinance will weigh heavily on its economic, cultural and social impact.

If you would like to sign the petition you can follow this link. If you are in favor of the ordinance, or have a more reasonable solution to the issue make sure to be at City Hall today at 3pm.