The Cactus Theater is one of the venues concerned about changes to Lubbock's noise ordinance.
A proposed revision to Lubbock’s noise ordinance has drawn the ire of many music fans and business owners, making it one of the most hotly contested suggestions the city has recently seen. The proposed revision, brought forth by District 2 Councilwoman Sheila Patterson Harris suggests that the city enforce that establishments not exceed 70 decibels during the week and 85 decibels on Friday and Saturday night.
For comparison, normal conversation takes place between 60 and 70 decibels and the dial tone on a telephone measures at 80 decibels.
“We have a noise ordinance. But we want to make that sure when we are doing things we are clear,” Patterson said in a Jan. 26 city council work session. “We’re clearly defining things so that everybody knows where we stand, and I don’t think we had that.”
The Lubbock music scene is particularly concerned about this proposal. For a community that takes pride in its footprint on the music scene, both statewide and nationally, there is a lot on the line for both bar owners and musicians.
Dalton Domino, whose album 1806 is named after the street address of the Blue Light, expressed concern for local bar owners over the musicians.
“It won’t affect the careers of musicians, it affects the bar owners and promoters of outside festivals...What’s B.S. is that the bars will lose two peak hours of money if they can’t have music, or loud music.”
What Domino points out is that if a concert that typically is scheduled until 1 a.m. must conclude by 11 p.m. to abide by the city’s noise ordinance, that’s two hours of revenue that the venue loses out on from food and beverage sales.
A couple of hours of revenue lost on a Friday and Saturday night for an extended period of time could significantly affect bar owners that depend on the revenue that music acts bring in. And then, what happens to the music? More than likely, an act, especially one that is trying to make it and pay bills, has to play venues that can afford them.
Another concern of the music community is that Harris is trumpeting a cause for a neighborhood in her district located behind the Lonestar Amphitheater. However, if any action is taken on this proposal, a majority of the businesses it affects are outside of her district, namely the venues in the Depot District, which have virtually no residences around them.
Other questions have arisen such as, how is this going to be enforced? Will the police sit at a property line or an entrance to a venue with a decibel meter? And why are government venues exempt from this proposed ordinance?
Mayor Dan Pope has spoken on the issue and stated publicly that he can’t support the ordinance in its current form, and a KCBD news poll voted overwhelmingly that no change was needed to any current noise ordinances.
At the Jan. 26 work session, Pope noted the citizens who showed to hear the discussion.
“You being here today makes us well aware of the fact that we’ve got to make sure we do a little work around that noise ordinance,” Pope said. “As much as anything else education. We need to listen, too, and that’s something we plan to do in the next month.”
Outdoor music events are another element of this proposal. This is key to point out because musicians like Domino, William Clark Green and Josh Abbott all throw outdoor events throughout the year. But fear not, music fans, Domino says his style won’t change.
“Despite the ‘laws,’ I will not change. My festivals will not change, and my loud shows will not change. Not ever, not for whoever.”
By Scott Fitzgerald