Dec 232013

Owen Courreges

This past Thursday, the City Council introduced an ordinance to strengthen New Orleans’ noise regulations.  Predictably, I am less than thrilled.  Because the issues involved are multifaceted and I always seek to edify my valued readers, I have written the following Q&A regarding these newly proposed noise laws. As a holiday bonus, the questions will be asked by the ghost of John Wayne.

Q:  What does this fancy new noise law actually do, pilgrim?

A:  Our current noise law has a table that provides decibel restrictions for “receiving” land uses (i.e., the property receiving the noise) and sets different standards for different zoning districts.  The zoning districts in the French Quarter have significantly higher decibel restrictions.

In French Quarter Entertainment Districts and in Special Historic Districts (i.e., the Marigny), the law states that the sound can be measured 25 feet from the source with a clearance of 3 feet from any reflecting surface (because they tend to increase the reading).

The proposed ordinance creates a second table providing decibel restrictions for “emanating” land uses, which are to be measured right at the property line.  It keeps the “receiving” land use table but only applies it to “sound emanating from industrial areas and public rights of way.”  Furthermore, it significantly lowers the existing decibel restrictions in the French Quarter.  The new noise law also adds a column to both tables setting new “c weighted” decibel restrictions.

(illustration by Owen Courreges for

(illustration by Owen Courreges for

Q:  Whoa now, partner.  What’s this fiddle-faddle about “c weighted?”

A:  It comes down to the way decibels are measured.  The “weighting” refers to the frequency curve utilized by the sound meter.  The gold standard for measuring decibels is “a weighting” (dBA), which is a curve designed to mimic the frequency sensitivity of the human ear.

However, the human ear is normally less sensitive to lower frequencies, so dBA cuts them off.  These are the frequencies created by the loud bass noise put out by subwoofers, which can carry and create irritating vibrations.  Accordingly, the ordinance seeks to restrict loud bass noise by adding “c weighted” (dBC) restrictions, because dBC is a flatter curve that encompasses more frequencies.

 Q:  I gotcha, poindexter.  So what sticks in your craw about this law?

A:  My problem is that the existing decibel restrictions were already fairly strict, and the new ones simply go overboard.   When laws are written this strictly, where compliance is extremely difficult or impossible, it normally indicates that the city is looking to have wide discretion in enforcement.  After all, if everybody is violating the law, police can cherry-pick venues to go after.  It’s a recipe of unfairness and corruption.

The biggest change here is that instead of measuring noise from the receiving land use or from a reasonable distance, the proposed ordinance measures it right at the property line of the emanating land use.  It will basically force police to jam their instruments right up against the exterior walls of bars and music clubs to get a reading.

Q:  Why does measurin’ from the property line of the emanating use matter?

A:  It’s a problem for two reasons.  First, it’s wrong because noise dissipates over distance.   Specifically, noise dissipates at a rate of 6 decibels each time the distance from the source doubles.  Accordingly, under the existing law, sound is allowed to dissipate in French Quarter Entertainment Districts and in Special Historic Districts by roughly 30 decibels before a reading is taken.  In all other districts, measurements are currently taken from the receiving land use (i.e., from where the impact of the noise is actually felt), which normally provides some distance for the noise to dissipate.

Secondly, it’s inappropriate on a conceptual level.  Noise laws normally regulate stationary sources of noise by measuring from the receiving land use.  In other words, they focus on immission (controlling sound input) rather than emission (controlling sound output).  Emission noise laws are normally only used with mobile sources because they affect multiple persons and properties, making it impractical to measure from the receiving land use.

Because the goal of noise laws is to prevent other citizens from actually receiving excessive noise, not to restrict noise per se, immission noise laws are generally accepted to be a far more appropriate way of dealing with stationary sources.  By pushing emission restrictions for stationary sources, the proposed ordinance simply gets it wrong.

Q:  What’s yer basis for sayin’ the decibel restrictions themselves are too strict?

A:  My basis is that the French Quarter is a neighborhood that needs significantly higher decibel restrictions.  As the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal noted in Reeves v. McConn, 631 F. 2d 377, 384 (5th Cir. 1980), “there is probably no more appropriate place for reasonably amplified free speech than the streets and sidewalks of a downtown business district.”  This is why the decibel levels were raised in the first instance, with measurements were to be taken from a reasonable distance away.

For example, the new law maintains the dBA L10 restriction of 60 decibels or 10 decibels over ambient in French Quarter Entertainment Districts and in Special Historic Districts.  This means that a source cannot exceed 60 decibels (or 10 decibels over ambient) 10% of the time.

60 decibels is roughly the level of normal human speech, so you’re talking about testing at the walls of bars in the Marigny and French Quarter for a sound equaling people talking in a normal speaking voice.  And with respect to 10 decibels over ambient, you’re talking about a very small difference in noise.  10 decibels by itself is barely at the threshold of human hearing.

The proposed a-weighted decibel restrictions in other zoning districts in the Quarter and Marigny are set in the range of 75 to 55 decibels, with different standards for nighttime and daytime.  Thus, we’re talking about decibel restrictions, measured directly from the source, that range from the volume of a sedate conversation to the level of the average noise from a vacuum cleaner.   Taking normal dissipation into account, these are sound levels that are scarcely audible in nearby buildings.

Q:  Is that “c weighting” thing plum good or plum awful?

A:  Adding dBC isn’t a bad idea, but the proposed ordinance botches it.  Instead of establishing the primacy of dBA, the proposed law simply adds dBC standards and sets them 5 decibels higher.  The only reason why dBC should normally be used is if heavy bass sounds are heard.  Otherwise, the readings will wind up being inflated and give an inaccurate account.

Q:  Yeah, so it’s bad policy.  But would you say this proposed law ain’t constitutional?

A:  I’d say at the very least tightening our noise laws will push the line of constitutionality.  Courts have consistently held that governments have a legitimate interest in restricting excessive noise, but the law must be narrowly tailored to comport with the First Amendment.  Accordingly, “[w]hen the government chooses to prohibit sound levels in public places that are not demonstrably disturbing, the courts will reject the regulation as overly broad.”  Lionhart v. Foster, 100 F. Supp. 2d 383, 387 (E.D. La. 1999).

In the Lionhart case, the Eastern District of Louisiana enjoined enforcement of a state law that crates “quiet zones” around hospitals and churches.  Specifically, it prohibits noise exceeding 55 decibels when measured at a distance of 10 feet from the entrance.   The Eastern District reasoned that the 55 decibel restriction “reaches sound that is not actually disturbing or excessive.”  Id. at 388.

In another case, the Eastern District struck down a New Orleans ordinance that prohibited loudspeakers “plainly audible” on any public property.  Mellen v. City of New Orleans, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14586 (E.D. La. Sept. 11, 1998).  The Court pointedly noted that the French Quarter is “not a typical residential neighborhood” and that the law in question lacked a distance restriction.  The Court essentially held that the law adopted by the council wasn’t even close to being narrowly tailored.

What all this means is that the City Council should be treading lightly in this area, but they’re not.  Shifting from regulating immission to emission is a radical change and a departure from standard practice.  Other citizens aren’t normally disturbed or annoyed by sound levels at the property line of the emanating land use unless those levels are already excessively high.  Thus, I do not believe the proposed law is narrowly tailored and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

Q:  You say, that, partner, but didn’t the city hire some city slicker expert for his opinion on this?

A:  They did.  They just didn’t follow it.

Back in 2011 the city hired David S. Woolworth of Oxford Acoustics to issue a report on noise regulation in New Orleans.  His report was released this past August, and contained specific recommendations for revisions to our noise laws.

Woolworth did not recommend anything resembling the proposed ordinance.  He did not propose creating a new category of regulations for “emanating” land uses (i.e., regulating emission).  He did support cutting the 25 foot distance at which sound is tested to 5 feet, but he did so with higher decibel restrictions and the elimination of the “60 decibels or 10 decibels over ambient” standard.   He did not recommend the tighter decibel restrictions in other districts in the Quarter and Marigny either.

Woolworth did recommend adding dBC restrictions, but with the proviso that dBA would be the “primary measure,” while dBC “may be used as a secondary measure, especially when the complaint is about low frequencies or in a residence.”  The bottom line is that the proposed ordinance ignores Woolworth and takes very little from his report.

Q:  So what’re the political prospects on this?

A:  The proposed ordinance has a great deal of political backing, although it’s not even clear who wrote the dang thing.  It was co-sponsored by Councilwomen Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Jackie Clarkson, Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

Outgoing Councilwoman Palmer, who represents the French Quarter, insists that the text didn’t originate from her office and that she co-sponsored it as a “starting point for public consideration and discussion.”  Nevertheless, Palmer has spoken out in support of these types of restrictions in the past, essentially becoming the mouthpiece of VCPORA.

Q:  Any parting thoughts, partner?

A:  This is a complex issue. I haven’t even described all of the problems with the proposed ordinance.  The complexity of all of this is what the anti-music crowd is counting on; that people aren’t going to understand the magnitude of what is being proposed.  They’re arguing that this is just a modest tweaking of decibel standards and measurement protocols.

In reality, this is a sea change.  We’re going from an immission standard to an emission standard while simultaneously enacting tougher decibel restrictions.  Especially in a neighborhood like the French Quarter, compliance isn’t going to be realistic.  Even with sound dampening, these restrictions are simply too easy to violate.

This is serious.  If you want to allow music to flourish in this city, if you want fair and reasonable laws, then you need to oppose this ordinance.  Let your councilmember know how you feel.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

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  • Yvonne

    As usual, I agree with you, Owen. What sticks in my craw, is residential neighbors who move into these entertainment districts, and are thrilled that their property values are raised by the entertainment venues, (who did the heavy lifting of turning the crime-ridden neighborhood around,) but then are furious that they can’t hear crickets chirping, from their urban houses. I’m not suggesting a twerk-fest, with booming music, but for neighbors to get upset about acoustic music, in New Orleans, in an entertainment district, is goofy, and makes me wish they’d never moved here, from the Midwest, (or wherever music-haters come from.)

    Just my humble opinion.

    Hilarious use of John Wayne’s ghost. Who’s next? Tupac?

    • BFREI

      Yvonne -

      VCPORA is much more sinister than the casual ex-suburban gentrification crowd. Check out their web sites and their ugly “7 Essentials.” And those are the public PR faces of this crowd.

      Which crowd, exactly? Who are the members? Even how many? They decline to say.

      • Franny Glass

        These are the same people who just succeeded in bringing us 25 more years of a graffiti festooned abandoned gas station at Rampart and Esplanande in the name of “preserving the neighborhood.”. Owen hits the nail on the head when he says this ordinance will make compliance impossible, and can and will be used by the proponents to shut down any undertaking they find undesireable. Watch how quickly they go after groups like PUfAP so as to stop the Thursday Jazz in the Park live music concerts in Armstrong Park, or second lines coming by their houses. This ordinace will be abused; It needs to be defeated.

    • Owen Courrèges


      Not sure who I’ll use next. Tupac might not be a bad idea….

    • crescentcitynative

      What about the residential neighbors who lived here before it was an entertainment district, just a regular neighborhood? What right do you have to come to town and make our neighborhoods entertainment districts? Please!
      When I was a child on the streets of New Orleans you could hear not crickets but cicadas, you would know that if you were from here. And I can still hear cicadas in the places that are lived in by natives.

      • Yvonne

        I am from here. Booorn and raised! The entertainment district I refer to had gunshots, not cicadas, before it was an entertainment district. It had prostitutes, turning tricks for drugs, inside of an abandoned gas station. (i watched it, and called the cops, often, at great personal risk. That’s what legal nightime activity does.) It had drugs being dealt. It had a high murder rate. Pretty quaint, right? There were some positives, but I remember a police officer telling me to “get out before I got shot.”

        I’m not saying that residential neighbors shouldn’t have a say, I’m saying that the carpetbaggers from Ohio, who want to turn Nola into the suburbs from whatever Midwestern town they are from, should move back there. We aren’t Gurnee, IL. We aren’t Burbank, CA. We aren’t Orlando, and we don’t want to be.

  • kmsoap

    Thank you, Owen. Very well put.

    For more information, please see

    To sign a petition opposing the proposed ordinance, go to

  • broadmoorer

    I honestly feel like there is a certain group of people that won’t be satisfied until they’ve killed every entity in NOLA that they deem “too rambunctious” in any way. Only a matter of time before street performers are completely banned, and bars are forced to close at midnight. Ridiculous.

    • Yvonne

      Bars on Freret ARE forced to close at midnight, on weekdays. 2 am on weekends. For realz.

      • Owen Courrèges


        And that’s an example of where things are going…

  • Karen Sepko

    Thank you so much for addressing this issue. Here’s a modified letter I wrote to City Council and my network to encourage signing the petition.

    Dear City Council,

    I am on Christmas holiday out of state, however, I understand all of you signed a proposed sound restriction ordinance (45-90Db depending time of day) on December 19th, 2013 that will impact Orleans Parish and specifically the French Quarter. I also understand this ordinance is supposedly supported by 20 neighborhood Associations in Orleans Parish. I would like my voice heard.

    Which neighborhood groups are part of this coalition?? Are there resident signatures showing a majority consensus from these “supportive” groups. I’ve never received any “official communication” where my input to support this sound ordinance was requested and I am the security chair of the WHSE District Neighborhood Association.

    Before passing such a restrictive ordinance, PLEASE buy a decibel meter, walk the French Quarter and test actual levels of indoor and outdoor noise for five minutes so you understand what this ordinance is suggesting.

    Please review these sound examples without background ambient noise under controlled conditions:

    Note: Ambient sound in the FQ on Dumaine street was measured at 70Db without music… Just normal car and pedestrian traffic

    Breathing 10Db (barely audible)
    Library noise 40Db
    Conversation in home 50Db
    Conversation in restaurant 60Db
    Office noise 60Db
    Air Conditioner at 100′ 60 Db
    Radio, TV, vacuum cleaner 70Db
    Garbage disposal 80Db
    Food blender 88 Db
    Motorcycle at 25′ 90 Db
    Garbage Truck,hair dryer 100 Db
    Plane flyover @1000′ up 103Db
    Police siren (minimum standard established by the DOJ)
    Class A 115Db – Class B 120Db
    With yelp and two tone sound for identification.
    *see attached sound chart

    What about Action Movie Sets, Firework Shows, New Years, Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest, Decadence, White Linen Night, Jazz Fest, Music in the Square, Halloween, Christmas in the District or any outdoor event where massive crowds gather? What decibel level do these crowds generate?? Will sound and time limitations make these movie sets and historic events cease to exist… Eventually??

    What about the Navy and Coast Guard flyovers? And the garbage pick-up in the mornings and street sweepers at night to ensure the streets are clean?? And the police warning sirens to keep criminals away ?? Are the sound police going to stop noise over the French Quarter or as mandated by the Federal Government?

    Will I have to turn off my hair dryer or my air conditioner, stop vacuuming, and stop making Daiquiris because my neighbor says it’s too loud?? Or risk receiving a hefty fine?

    Will this Ordinance give sound police the right to stand outside my door and listen through my walls to my conversations and TV programs to see if I’m too loud? What about screams of orgasm?? How many Db’s is that??? Don’t laugh.. As security chair, I actually received several written complaints from an elderly couple at a Warehouse District Condo Complex complaining about their neighbor having sex and wanted the Condo Board to enforce the indoor sound ordinance! It’s the law! The middle aged couple ended up moving after repeated “legal” documented public complaints which were meant to embarrass and harass. Who’s rights were violated?? No one wins.

    Also, who is qualified to enforce this law?? You need to understand the technicalities of sound measurement which requires extensive training. Will the City hire a qualified sound technician? If not, will violations hold up in court??

    If this passes… Expect more neighbor consternation, distress, aggravation and aggressive lawsuits. Is that what we, New Orleaneans are about? This isn’t your yuppy suburban environment folks.. You KNOW exactly what you are getting when you move here. It’s no secret.. The French Quarter hasn’t been quiet for 100′s of years! Why change now??

    This sound ordinance will make the French Quarter a ghost town. It is intrusive, impractical, and will change the history of New Orleans. Music and lively streets is why tourists visit and a big part of why New Orleaneans chose to live in this city. See this link from Thrill List to hear why visitors come to New Orleans…

    Obviously, visitors like exactly what we’ve got going on in our City!

    More importantly, if this ordinance passes there goes our cash cow source of REVENUE! We brought in a record breaking $6 billion from visitors in 2012 and the movie companies brought in $600-$700 million to New Orleans so far. Think of the impact on the City budget if the French Quarter turns quiet and our visitors quit coming.

    People are speaking up against this proposed Ordinance. Please see petition that’s been circulating since the signing of the proposed ordinance. There are already 3600+ signatures. Expect more in support of keeping the French Quarter lively and filled with music just like it is.

    Before passing an ordinance that will impact long time residents, bars, restaurant and business owners, musicians, horse drawn carriages, street performers, tap dancers, church bells, bourbon bustle where people enjoy dancing in the street, tourists and visitors etc please get real input. Don’t rely on special interest groups and people with private agendas to change our culture and what New Orleans means and sounds to the world.

    Here’s a link to a Sound Chart:

    Here’s a link to the Proposed Sound Ordinance:

    Here’s a link to the Petition in response to your signing of the proposed sound Ordinance

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Karen Sepko, MBA, ChE and Security Chair WHSE DNA


    To all copied, please feel free to sign the petition and distribute this email.


    For a bit more anti-council vituperation,

    Even if Kristin Gisleson Palmer is complicit in this, which I am not sure about, she is leaving the council, while their standard issue machine pol, Jackie Clarkson, is side-stepping to run for Distrct C – a ploy to keep hustle-as-usual in place, while subverting term limits (Clarkson was termed-out in the At Large seat) and for that matter, sell-by.

    So the thing to is for everybody in C – and there are a lot of us – to vote her out and down, and VCPORA with her. They do not represent the district; they represent a clique of property prerogative who just care about their own privilege and dominance.

    You do not have to give in to this.

  • Suzanne-Juliette Mobley

    Well put, Owen and thank you for citing Lionhart and Mellen! It’s nice when we can disobey former VCPORA president, Nathan Chapman’s order to “not open the Pandora’s Box of the constitution.”


    Hotpoint has a domestic kitchen dishwasher that it says is quiet – rated at 62 dB.

    • Owen Courrèges

      Exactly, People don’t realize just how strict these standards are!

  • Chris Gatlin

    Just wondering how many of you commenters actually live in the districts for which these noise ordinances are proposed.

    • Suzanne-Juliette Mobley

      It’s a city wide ordinance, Chris.

    • Owen Courrèges


      Although the decibel changes only apply to the Quarter and Special Historic Districts, the measuring changes — the shift from immission to emission standards — is citywide. In any event, these are issues of citywide import and everyone should have a say. We should not be a city of self-absorbed fiefdoms that set whatever ridiculous standards they want.

      • Chris Gatlin

        I suppose that is good in theory but I am interested to know how many of those objecting to the noise ordinance are subjected to the noise.

        • Owen Courrèges


          Well, I’ve had some minor noise issues at time myself, but at the same time I didn’t move in next door to a music venue. There is one down the street, and while other neighbors have complained, I have maintained that the sound levels are reasonable.

          • Chris Gatlin

            Well me neither but I do work on the square and sometimes the noise levels are ridiculous. I have also been in a club on Frenchmen St where I could not hear the music well because of street musicians. I am undecided on this new ordinance – I think the city should try enforcing the one they have now and see how that works but of course the council is seen as dealing with the problem if they enact some kind of rule. They, after all, are not in charge of enforcement! I was mainly wanting to point out to people who are jumping on the “against” bandwagon that we who live in da quarters are not against noise and have had our share of listening to crickets but it can be unreasonable. One commenter said something about acoustic music and must not realize that most of the buskers are amplified. I often thought just a ban against anything electronically generated would quash most resident’s complaints. However I have met someone in the Quarter whose house has been in his family for generations and unfortunately is next door to Pat O’s. initially it was tolerable but in order to compete with other Bourbon St. businesses the sound level has increased to such a degree as to be nearly intolerable. This is not someone who moved near the airport and began to complain. As my boss says, ” the airport moved near me,” so I am merely trying to point out the other side of the coin to those who are not here to deal with the noise levels on a daily basis.
            Thanks for your article – it was very explanatory as far as this proposed ordinance is concerned. I think you did a great job of explaining what it is all about.
            Kind regards, Chris

          • Owen Courrèges


            You can’t constitutionally ban amplication, so this has to be dealt with vis-a-vis decibel restrictions. The existing laws could be improved, but if they are strengthened to the degree proposed by the new ordinance, they will be overbroad. There needs to be some kind of balance, and this is nowhere near that.

  • Drew Ward

    This is yet another instance of elected officials rushing to adopt overreaching overly-generalised blanket regulatory approach with neither the proper forethought nor with having taken the time to effectively educate themselves on the issue.

    There is not a single person on the council with a background in sound engineering or dealing with this sort of thing; the same is true of those pushing for and having authored the proposed ordinance. Thus, there is no one, without undertaking an in depth programme of study and research into the topic who should be voting, supporting, or even considering regulation.

    New Orleans and especially the French Quarter is unique in the US in how buildings are built, how neighbourhoods are laid out, how near buildings are to each other, and very much in the manner in which we live, eat, work, & play all within the same intimate spaces and often even within the same building.

    It’s yet another of of the myriad ways in which New Orleans is sometimes more like Europe than it is the rest of the United States. For me that’s actually a matter of quirky unique pride. Regardless of whether these Eurocentric traits of our city are something you like or disdain, it means at the very least that the approach taken in dealing with the many issues of urban life in New Orleans require a New Orleans-specific approach that is itself based on similar situations not in most of America but in those places in Europe sharing similar attributes with our home here.

    The closest markets you’ll find to New Orleans with similar blending of lifestyles and functions, similar combinations of music, entertainment, and even tourism with business and residence, and similarly constructed and placed buildings and neighbourhoods are Prague in the Czech Republic, Nuremberg & Berlin in Germany, and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, or even the more residential areas of London in the UK. Each of these markets has a long history of SUCCESSFULLY balancing the needs of residents and businesses with those of musicians and tourists to support a happy healthy and sustainable blended use communities within dynamic cities of similar size and make-up to New Orleans and within the constraints of an historic core.

    Yet again this is a scenario where the example of a successful viable model is already out there and already has data and a track record and in some cases decades of successes and failures from which to draw in developing an ordinance for New Orleans.

    In such systems, Owen is correct in that the types of restrictive measurement mechanisms and arbitrary decibel-level based regulation has been proven a non-option. This sort of blanket approach just leaves far too many variables out to be workable in the end. What the successful systems have set up is a regulatory scheme in which sound is measured not from the origination source, not from the originating property line, not from the receiving property line, or building, or any of that. Within these systems, sound is measured within the living or working spaces of the receiving property. Readings are taken with the doors and windows closed, with an in-house baseline for natively produced sound established and subtracted from readings, and with readings further adjusted to the benefit of the originator for things such as improperly sealing doors and windows, lack of insulation, etc.

    These are FAIR systems and they successfully ensure that if a neighbour has done their part to create a quiet space in their home, that they are kept free from undue sound intrusion from beyond. What is does not do however is take all responsibility off of the complainant; it does not attempt to criminalise sound or music; it does not attempt to artificially limit the permitted use of neighbouring properties; and it does not arbitrarily assign unrealistic expectations for either side.

    These regulatory systems are geared toward fostering a successful environment in which everyone can make fair use of and live a happy life within the scope of the challenges of urban living. They do not on the other hand provide a tool by which those who would seek to rewrite our many neighbourhoods and communities into something they are not and never have been via illegalising every single potential property function beyond those which they envision.

    We know what we need regarding sound regulation in New Orleans. We also know what we don’t need, and the ‘noise ordinance’ is certainly one example of something New Orleans does not and cannot put in place without destroying the viability of our communities and our cultural economy.

    Drew Ward
    Candidate, City Council District A

    • kmsoap

      Good stuff, Drew. But it does overlook one important comparison.
      We actually have more in common with the Caribbean than our European counterparts. There is a long history of interaction with our southern neighbors. In fact, Havana was our number one trade partner for nearly 200 years. Not only did music and dance travel with the sailors who manned the trade route, those disciplines traveled with the actual trade itself…slaves. The Haitian Revolution brought yet another wave of Caribbean immigration in the late 1700′s.
      In addition to the European influence from various ruling crowns throughout the Caribbean, there was much influence from Africa. But one of the most important factors to consider when addressing this issue is the liberal use of outdoor public space that is prevalent in the islands, and New Orleans, due to our temperate climate. We cherish our outdoor living space and make very frequent use of our shared space for celebration and just plain living. Remember, in the days prior to air conditioning, taking to the streets or courtyards on a summer’s evening after the sun set and the air cooled a little was absolutely the norm.
      That exotic flavor is part of what makes us so popular with tourists. We’re a vibrant blend of European, African and Caribbean culture, and we will never, ever be Anywhere, USA. Or sound like it.

      • crescentcitynative

        What is all of this our and we and us. You are just living here, you don’t have any connection to our history.

  • Owen Courrèges


    I actually think Woolworth’s recommendations were pretty decent, although I would also have increased some of the existing decibel restrictions.

    He was actually proposing some things that would have simplified the ordinance and made it easier to enforce (such as having only one dBA measurement, and setting hard but reasonable decibel limits in the VCE and SHD districts).

  • crescentcitynative

    The problem is that the population of the city of New Orleans is 370,000 and about 10,000 are musicians or other artists, and the majority of those 10,000 aren’t from here.
    Despite what people may say this city used to be filled with neighborhoods of people who lived just like people in other cities, it wasn’t until the white flight that the neighborhoods have gotten loud and artistic. So you can argue about the noise but please, there are 10s of thousands of people who know better than to say loud noise on every corner is our culture.

    • Franny Glass

      Classic straw man fallacy. There’s not “loud noise” on “every corner.” That’s not the issue. I’ve lived here since the 70 s, and live music has been a fixture in NOLA for decades. The issue is how do we work out a compromise between those who appreciate the value of live music to the community and culture, and those who, although living in an urban environment, treasure their peace and quiet over all. In my view, Draconian regs that can be subjectively enforced are the wrong way to go. If there are specific areas of certain neighborhoods that require more enforcement(Jackson Square comes to mind), let’s focus on enforcing the rules that exist rather than creating arbitrary and unrealistic rules that can be used to further a specific group’s agenda. A little more understanding on the part of live music artists, many of whom flaunt the current regs, and then cry “free speech” when an annoyed neighbor complains, wouldn’t hurt either. Let’s try to get together on a solution rather than calling each other names.

  • crescentcitynative

    Oh Owen thank you for allowing me to win the bet. You have proven to be closed minded and small, I would love to see you dealing with the opposition in court. And just my opinion but if you wish to be viewed seriously in the future the format of this article should be abandoned, it appears to the adults like you are talking to children, or adults who can’t read at the college level, not good for your cause.

    • Owen Courrèges


      I don’t think my column is small or closed-minded, but since you don’t elaborate I suppose I can’t response to whatever you’re trying to get at.

      As for the format of the column, I don’t think the Q&A format is necessarily flawed; it is a device used in many scholarly texts. The writing here is certainly at an appropriate level for an opinion column.

    • Franny Glass

      Do you have anything constructive to add to the conversation, Mr. CCN? Is it really your position that there is no history of live music on the streets of New Orleans until recently? I guess you believe yourself to be the “adult” referred to in your comment. God have mercy on us if your comments set the tone for adult conversation and debate.

  • Owen Courrèges


    As I said in my column, I don’t think adding dBC regulations is a bad thing. However, dBC should be a secondary measure used only when major bass noise is detected. That’s what Woolworth recommended.

  • kmsoap

    Amplification is legal even in front of the Cathedral and shops, but traditionally buskers and the Church have worked together. There is a gentlemen’s agreement in place about not performing past a certain dB level while services or functions are going on. Ridiculous ordinances like this jeopardize all the compromises of polite society that have been made over the course of decades..
    Generally, when approached in a reasonable manner, buskers will work with shop owners. Problems arise when people approach them and threaten them with enforcement of laws that do not exist or that are already known to be unconstitutional. Approaching anyone, anywhere in a confrontational manner is likely to yield less than cooperative results. It also shows certain character flaws.

  • NOLA1718

    Why in the world would anyone live one block from Bourbon and expect peace and quiet? The French Quarter is an entertainment district, not a suburban neighborhood. If you want peace and quiet, move to Metairie.

    • Tanner James

      Did you seriously just say that? Wow, I had no idea the French Quarter was nothing but an “entertainment district!” I suppose all the galleries on Royal Street are also for “entertainment.” And all the residents who live there are just intruders. Guess I’ll have to hire a dancing monkey to put in the window to keep the drunks entertained. It’s idiotic comments like yours that make a sane discussion about this issue impossible.

  • Vee Anne Russ

    I lived the the quarter for over ten years. I was occasionally perturbed by the noise, but moreso by the obnoxious tourist behavior. I NEVER in a million years would have presumed that I as one resident had the right to bend the fabric of an entire established neighborhood to my will because of my personal inconvenience. You say you’ve lived there longer than the bars and noise? I have some articles printed in the 1890′s about this rambunctious new “Rag-Time” music that would probably disprove your statement. (Since I know it will be asked, I did move to the neighboring Treme, but it was because I could afford to buy there, not because the mean old music chased me out.)

  • Karen Sepko

    Here it is! The list of 20 Neighborhood Associations Nathan Chapman is claiming support the proposed ordinance. Do these Neighborhood Associations represent the majority of residents / members ? We are finding out they don’t! If your Association is listed and you feel misrepresented, please leave a comment.

    1. Algiers Presidents Council
    2. Bywater- Neighbors First for Bywater
    3. Coliseum Square Association
    4. Delachaise Neighborhood Association
    5. Eastern New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission (ENONAC)…
    6. Esplanade Ridge/Treme Civic Association
    7. Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association
    8. Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association
    9. French Quarter Citizens
    10. Fontainebleu Neighborhood Association
    11. Garden District Neighborhood Association
    12. Lafayette Square Association
    13. Lake Vista- Lake Vista Property Owners Association
    14. Louisiana Landmarks Society
    15. Maple Area Residents, Inc.
    16. Mid-City Neighborhood Association
    17. St. Charles Avenue Association
    18. Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association
    19. Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents Association
    20. Warehouse District Association