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Update To Charlotte Noise Ordinance May Limit Live Music Scene

Charlotte's music scene could be in for some changes with a new noise ordinance now under review by the city council. Twenty-five years ago - when the noise ordinance was last updated - Charlotte was a quieter place with a lot less nightlife. City Attorney Mac McCarley says these days the noise ordinance is "unenforceable and ineffective." Police say they're getting lots of complaints from people who live near bars and restaurants that offer music late into the night. Proposed changes to the ordinance debuted at a city council committee meeting yesterday that was packed with club owners and musicians worried the changes will hurt their business. Take Ed's Tavern in Dilworth. Owner Alan Cole says no business owner wants to make the neighborhood mad. "It's just bad for business, but you also still want to be able to function and part of that is the entertainment aspect," says Cole. The current noise ordinance relies largely on business owners to decide how loud is "too loud." The new ordinance says if music from a business is loud enough to be heard on residential property, it's too loud. Cole says people who live in neighborhoods like Dilworth where homes and businesses intermingle need to be flexible about noise. "You wanted to live close to restaurants and stuff, but here's the negative drawback," says Cole. He does what he can to keep the noise down for his neighbors, but the proposed ordinance would limit him even further. Musician Jay Garrigan says it would also limit performers. "I'm lucky that I'm established enough to book a night at a club where the volume can be controlled from going outside,""says Garrigan. "But there are a lot of budding artists who don't have a lot of contacts and they just want to play wherever they can." The new noise ordinance cracks down on impromptu street concerts and backyard performances, establishes clearer limits on protests and street musicians, and sets up a process to deal with chronic noise problems. City Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey is driving the effort to update the noise ordinance. She represents Dilworth, Elizabeth, Plaza-Midwood and NoDa - all neighborhoods where night life and residential zoning increasingly overlap.