City Desk

Citizen Vigilante Group Forms to Combat Noise in Dupont


The Dupont Circle neighborhood may no longer be D.C.'s epicenter of cool, but according to at least one local group, the area's club-goers are still plenty loud.

The D.C. Noise Control Act limits noise levels at night to 60 decibels—which is about the roar of a normal conversation—and the newly formed D.C. Nightlife Noise Coalition says the volume emanating from some nearby nightlife establishments is disrupting residents' quality of life, and city officials aren't enforcing the law.

"We finally decided that we need to band together, raise awareness, get the press together, and shine a light on this issue," says Sarah Peck, a lawyer and the coalition's spokeswoman, who wrote a 23-page white paper detailing how the noise ordinances aren't being enforced. "We need to take this seriously. This is a few blocks from the White House, and our officials are not taking this seriously."

Peck says the coalition largely comprises residents in the Palladium Condominium at 1325 18th St. NW, where she has lived since 2011. The group also has the support of Steve Coniglio, the developer of a 70-unit condominium next to the Tabard Inn on N Street NW, which is in "earshot" to the area south of Dupont Circle along Connecticut Avenue nicknamed Club Central.

Together, they have many tactics for fighting noise, including going around at night with a Department of  Consumer and Regulatory Affairs-approved sound meter to measure the rowdiness of area establishments. The group is also meeting with government officials to demand they enforce these laws and is protesting the re-licensing of the worst noise offenders with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.

The coalition issued a press release today saying that officials are responding to the "persistent Dupont Circle noise problem."

“I take noise complaints very seriously,” ABRA Director Fred Moosally is quoted as saying in the press release.

Kevin O'Connor, a Dupont ANC commissioner and member of the commission's Alcohol Policy Committee, says the new coalition's complaint about enforcement of noise ordinances is valid, but that a certain amount of noise is just going to happen in a longtime mixed-use neighborhood like Dupont.

"I am not sure that the views they represent are the views of all the Dupont Circle [neighborhood]," he says. "I don't think I agree with them on what their standard of acceptable noise is, but we always welcome community involvement on these matters."

Screen shot via Google Maps

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  • Rich

    If you choose to live in the Dupont Area and expect it to be quiet on the weekends, YOU'RE GONNA HAVE A BAD TIME.

  • James

    No offense Sarah Peck, but I think your precious time and energy could be better spent on myriad other community issues

  • Sarah Peck is Stupid

    Step one: Go see condo during the day.
    Step two: Go see condo during the day again.
    Step three: Buy condo.
    Step four: Sleep in condo on a weekend night.
    Step five: Regret purchase.
    Step six: Make threats.
    Step seven: Litigate

  • Typical DC BS

    Yes, silly rules. Even though businesses agreed to abide by them when they opened and apply for liquor license renewals, everyone knows the rules don't apply to causes near and dear to liberal moron's hearts, like interfering with their good times.

  • dcjpad

    In what way is this a "vigilante" group?

  • Derek

    Completely agree with Rich; if you want to live in Dupont you should have to know it comes with the territory. Especially since that area of 18th and Conn has had clubs since at least the mid 1990s. Also I'd think that the Palladium and a condo on N St is pretty removed from those clubs for it to be much of an issue.

  • Jason

    Dear Sarah Peck: You moved to Dupont in 2011? That means you knew exactly what you were getting into when you moved into your building.

    People who are stupid enough to move into a nightlife area and then complain about the noise that a nightlife area generates should be told to leave if they can't handle the noise.

  • Corky

    Move back to the damn suburbs if you want peace and quiet. My God, why would anyone move downtown next to bars and clubs and then complain about the bars and clubs as if they just magically appeared? Those clubs have been there for years. Heck, I used to party on those blocks in the 80's!

  • JS

    Also, calling BS on the Palladium residents being kept up at night. I walk that stretch of 18th street fairly frequently on weekend nights and the sound from the clubs doesn't really carry north of 18th and N.

  • Mario

    Who the hell is making noise around that dead zone? If she's complaining about noise coming from Conn. Ave, I think she needs a more suburban location. Not everyone is entitled to live in the city. Sometimes you've got to put up with things you don't like. I know these "masters of the universe" types are used to getting their way, but this is ludicrous.

  • Peter

    The issue here is the law. DC law says that the maximum noise level is 60 decibels at night. There is no exception for clubs. Other cities enforce these laws on clubs and the clubs continue to operate. New York City does it and it has a livelier club scene than DC.

    Some of these comments seem to come from people who grew up in the suburbs and think the city is a just a place for a good time. People actually live in the city. They raise families in the city. And they have right to rely on the laws being enforced.

    And not everyone who moves to Dupont Circle comes from the suburbs. They come from other parts of Washington or from other cities.

  • Andrew

    At the risk of sounding trolly, Jesus H Christ people. Welcome to the city. Either she is hilarious or clueless with the "blocks from the Whkte House" reference -- that or it says something that noisy bars are the new murder.

  • tntdc

    The law is 60 decibels and the law should be enforced. If a nightclub feels it necessary to make all night noise more than that it should move away from a residential area where the noise level applies.

    The same law is the reason trash trucks and construction can't work before 7am. Nightclubs shouldn't be exempt.

    The nightclubs could just comply via noise abatement.

  • A McIver

    One thing I don't see in any of this is health. Noise causes acute and chronic health problems. It is a harmful physical pollutant stresses the human body and results in cardiovascular illness such as high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease. When it causes sleep deprivation the consequences are greater and include weakened immune system, obesity, higher risk of cancer, not to mention acute problems such as poor coordination, reactions, energy levels etc. Don't believe me? Look up Burden of Disease Noise report 2011 from the World Health Organization.

    Legal action should be taken against those who are supposed to regulate this but do not. This is willful neglect, is damaging to health and should be treated as any other pollutant.

  • Mony

    tntdc-problem is that the Palladium is effectively an isolated condo building in middle of a commercial district. Save for a new rowhouse condo development on Jefferson Place and the proposed Follies condo on N Street, they are completely surrounded by hotels, restaurants, offices, and businesses (unlike say 17th Street which is half residential/half commercial).

  • Annonny

    The law is the law and was put in place to enable everyone (business owners, residents, visitors) to enjoy the city. The DC police department and city government are supposed to enforce the law, not disregard it when convenient and/or bribed. If the clubs violating the law, they should be brought into compliance. If they don't like it, the mealy-mouthed ANC Commissioner and his ilk can work to have the Council change the noise ordinance. Until that happens, DC needs to enforce its own laws so that residents and business owners alike can co-exist.

  • Abigail Nichols

    Thank you to our supporters, please join our coalition at Our critics have opinions but too few facts. They don’t seriously deal with our white paper. There are good reasons noise laws apply everywhere. Too much noise injures humans – and deafness isn’t the only bad result. DC law realistically allows noise to be somewhat higher in commercial zones than in residential areas, but Club Central noise greatly exceeds even commercial zone limits. Besides, the 40-year-old Palladium isn’t in a commercial area, and areas adjacent to commercial zones are protected. The Palladium’s mix of students, working singles, couples with young children, and others who have aged in place is just what our zoning envisions.

  • Casey

    Judging from that location, it must be Madhatter and the Big Hunt they're complaining about

  • Heard It Before

    Don't buy a house next to the Cathedral and then complain about the bells.

  • Dupont Resident

    Kevin O'Connor is a terrible ANC Commissioner and an awful person. The lack of respect he shows to any resident that voices their opinion at ANC meetings is disgusting. For whatever reason, Kevin plays to the businesses. I'm not sure if he's afraid of them or what else it could be, but this isn't a popularity contest.

    He should revisit why he was elected in the first place.

    Residents should also remember it is an election year and it would be great to see someone take his place.

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  • IMGoph

    Here's a fact: it's "band together," not "ban together."

  • Los

    Good luck. I lived in Foggy Bottom and would call the cops to complain about noise, under age drinking, pot smoking on the HALLWAYS of a residential building, and they did not care one iota.

  • Dupont Resident

    I forgot to note that Kevin O'Connor, from his quote, thinks that HE sets the standard for "acceptable" noise.

    There are laws that set the standard. The "standard of acceptable noise" is not a negotiated standard or subjective level. The legal decibel limit is written explicitly in the DC noise ordinance.

  • JeffB

    Do any of you loud-mouths who are saying, "if you don't like the noise, don't move to Dupont" actually living in Dupont? I live off U St. Today it's booming - with people, businesses and unwanted noise. When I moved there, most of those clubs did not exist. So now what do you say? Was I supposed to anticipate the noise and the failure of DCRA to enforce noise ordinances? Should the businesses relocate for moving into an area that had become more residential? There isn't an easy answer here folks so don't mock these folks who are trying to enjoy some quality of life and not have their windows rattling with the BOOM BOOM BOOM of SUBURBANITES who have come into the city to party before puking on your lawn and returning home.

  • Mike Madden

    @ IMGoph: Thanks, typo. Fixed.

  • JS

    Hi there, I do indeed live in Dupont Circle and love the vibrancy of my neighborhood, including the drunks stumbling home at 3 AM.

    U street has always been a commercial district. Even during the crack epidemic, when yuppies and their yoga mats were nowhere to be seen, and there was a nontrivial chance of getting shanked on any given night.

    Don't get me wrong - DCRA can't find it's ass with both hands, and could do a better job working with MPD to enforce existing laws. But again, you moved to a historically commercial area, and are shocked that it's noisy? Give me a break.

  • Eric

    DC police do what they can to enforce noise complaints (from experience having called them and dealt with them), but there is a certain level of noise above and beyond that must remain acceptable if you live in the city. There is no way that the city can afford to hire a cop for every bar to monitor noise levels, nor should they. Believe me, they have MUCH better things to do than to effectively hold your hand while you sleep. Every now and then throughout the night there will be a rowdy group. They're obnoxious and annoying sometimes. This is what humanity is. It's chaos. We do what we can to abate the chaos where and when it is necessary, but this is one of those neighborhoods where a bit of late-night humanity should be expected. What I'm not seeing here is a complaint about the bars and clubs themselves (because there is not much sound leakage emanating from these places). What I'm seeing is a complaint about people on the streets, which is absolutely ridiculous in a commercial area and in an increasingly late-night city.

    I grew up in Silver Spring, and now live in Logan Circle, which is obviously booming. I've also lived in central London and downtown Philadelphia. I hate noise at night. I can't sleep when there are people being loud. But guess what!! I wear ear plugs when I need to so that my selfish desires don't have to become neighborhood issues. And when I realize that I've maybe outgrown my neighborhood, I'll move somewhere quieter--maybe Capitol Hill, Cleveland Park, or Nebraska.

  • Eric

    Think about speed limits. The law says 60, but drivers in the left lane are going 70-80 mph. I bet most of you have been one of those drivers, and I bet some of you are almost always one of those drivers. The law is the law, but there is absolutely no reasonable way you can or should enforce it (without a continuous line of cameras along the way). And I'm guessing most of you don't like speed cameras either.

  • dcjpad

    The "vigilante" group's issue, as I understand it, has much to do with sound amplification on rooftop bars. Why shouldn't that warrant the same consideration and regulation as sound amplification inside the clubs?

  • Ben

    It is more than a bit rich for someone who moved to the neighborhood three years ago to complain about the noise of the bars, clubs and other commercial establishments that she moved next door to. I could not very well move next to National Airport and then complain about the jet noise.

    This is not to say that bars and clubs are somehow above the law. There may very well be a particularly bad actor who truly is routinely disturbing the peace of the neighborhood. And if so, that entity should be dealt with appropriately. But to blanketly complain about the noise emanating from blocks of clubs and bars that were in existence long before you set up shop in the neighborhood smacks of an entitlement that believes that neighborhoods should conform to one's every demand and whimsy. But that is not how neighborhoods work.

    One final point: having spent a number of years living just a half block off of 14th street in the epicenter of the Logan Circle renaissance, and also being highly familiar with the blocks of clubs referenced in the "white paper," there is certainly some exagerration of the actual level of noise emanating from those estblishments. I have strolled past the Tabard Inn late on a Friday or Saturday night, and the sound of crickets in their front garden far exceeds any din of noise coming from the 18th/N area.

    Here's my recommendation for Sarah Peck: do your homework before your next move. Are you goigng to be within a block or two of a number of nightlife establishments? Is there a high likelihood of people walking by yoru property at all hours of the day and night? Do you prefer a level of noise more appropriate to a suburban cul-de-sac than the center of a large, dense city? Then you should seriously rethink your home purchase. Caveat emptor.

  • dcjpad

    You could move next to National Airport, or the National Cathedral (as someone mentioned earlier), and complain about jets or bells if they make noise, say, in the middle of the night or, as is the case with nightclubs, at levels that unreasonably exceed legal limits.

  • Shaw

    Pardon me, I need to go get a napkin to clean up where I spit my coffee out on my screen when I read Fred Moosally say he takes noise complaints very seriously. That's hysterical. Fred and ABRA may take them seriously, but they never do anything about them. I've had the misfortune of experiencing Fred "taking complaints seriously" before, and can vouch for these people that nothing ever gets done.

    I agree with all the commenters who said you can't expect quiet in Dupont on a weekend, but I also agree with the citizens group that there is no point in the city having laws that they cannot or will not enforce. I'm pretty sure that if the laws were enforced, the clubs would quiet down some but could still be very loud indoors and the residents would have a lot more peace, and it would be a good middle ground.

  • Karyn-Siobhan Robinson

    As a former ANC Commissioner at Dupont, I dealt with this issue. Frequently. I truly believe that the city needs entertainment zones: areas where - if you ~choose to~ move in - you understand that there are ~different~ standards for the city's 'peace, order and quiet' noise regulations. Suggested areas for entertainment zones: H Street, Dupont, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Foggy Bottom, Penn Quarter, Mount Vernon, West End.

    These areas are all high-density and high-use. Expecting Chevy Chase-like quiet in those areas is unrealistic and sets ~everyone~ up to be enemies.

    I believe that entertainment zones could alleviate some of these issues.

    Requiring disclosure of current noise levels and also requiring developers to build more soundproof residential units within entertainment zones could make us all better neighbors for one another. These developers and real estate agents bear some responsibility for the current state of affairs.

    Much to their chagrin, I told new residents of a multi-million dollar condo building that opened across the street from a nightclub (that had been in place for more than 30 years and was visible from the door of the multi-million dollar condos: "If high levels of peace order and quiet are important to you, perhaps purchasing a condo at the corner of 22nd and O is not for you. You may want to consider something in Manassas or Gaithersburg."

    Did I mention the residents who moved across the street from Ross School (built in the late 1800s) who complained about noise from the schoolyard?

    I have little sympathy for any developers or residents moving into the 1700 block on N Street. Nightclubs have been in that area for decades. Anyone who moves in, should move in with eyes open and understanding that noise, drunks, cops … come with the territory when you ~choose~ to move into those areas.

    That said, the bars and nightclubs ~do~ have a responsibility to manage their patrons in a responsible manner and to remind them that they are in a city, sound travels, be courteous.

    I fully agree with Commissioner O'Connor – I do not believe this group represents the majority of Dupont residents.

    I do think Jeff B makes some good points, but there is tension and there should be trade-offs on both sides. I believe the nightclubs should be required to have staff outside monitoring patrons. I believe city residents should expect noise to be a part of life, whether it is there when you move in or not. There is noise and there is noise. I think cars with booming radios should be ticketed, especially late at night.

    Enforcement, understanding, proper zoning, expectation management and healthy dose of reality on all sides are needed.

    This is a complex issue. Many needs must be balanced. I suspect this response will tick off people from both sides of the issue. I hope so, that means I've struck a balance – which is much-needed on this issue.

  • Eric

    @Shaw: The middle ground was already reached a couple of decades ago. You're not going to do any better. Laws (or regulations as they are) are enforced as much as they can be. You have choices where to live. The point is there's no reason to complain about a situation that you chose to be a part of. I don't want Dupont to change. I don't really want Dupont to be quieter, either. I want this city to be as rambunctious as is safely possible. Because with that vitality comes growth, rebirth, and a better future.

  • Will

    And someone needs to stand up for that future!! ^^

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  • Carl

    As they say for examinations: Read the Problem. The Dupont residents are asking for only one thing in their campaign - amplified music to be contained within the business. To get that result, they appeal to the enforcement mechanisms that were put in law for that purpose. All the other usual noises of a busy city are accepted: traffic, sirens, noisy drunks, auto horns, all those things recognized by law and custom as part of city life. And so far, the businesses that the residents have talked with as part of their license renewal process are co-operating in concert with their desire to be good neighbors. If the rest of them also co-operate, there will be no need for intense enforcement. If they do not cooperate, the residents will appeal to the Alcohol Control Board to impose such condition for the license, or to the police to enforce the law's intended noise control for residential or SP zones, no matter how close to a commercial zone. The city cannot have it both ways: to induce residential building with residential protections and commercial establishments free to violate those residential protections. In this case, the only protection being pursued is amplified music outside the business.

  • dupont resident 2

    O'Connor and Robinson should not hold office if they think they are in charge of making political deals without regard to the law. They have no basis for making claims about the opinion of the "majority of Dupont residents," and I doubt that the majority of Dupont residents, paying property taxes and concerned about quality of life as well as home values, would agree with them. the Dupont circle area is primarily one of residents these commissioners should represent.

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  • exhausted

    As someone who has lived at the Palladium for many years, I can affirm that I did not move into the building expecting it to be "Chevy Chase quiet." A certain amount of city noise is to be expected. What was NOT to be expected was that about 2 years ago, all of the neighborhood clubs would open rooftop spaces and would have a competition to see which DJ can play their music the loudest. On some nights it the pounding bass music is unbelieveably loud and I can generally hear - very clearly - all of the words in the song. So to respond to the haters - yes, city noise is to be expected. HOWEVER - having ones home effectively turned into a nightclub on the weekends is not.

  • Enema

    18th and Connecticut is turning into a seedy 70's version of Times Square, thanks to this Pakistani piece of trash Michael Romeo Rehman. Ever since his infection of Connecticut and initiation of the loudness wars a few years ago, we've already seen two murders along this stretch of Connecticut. And now his Thuggie acquaintances and relatives shill on these boards to defend his flouting of our laws.

    What I want to know is who in DC is he supplying cash, coke, and hookers to in order to get away with violating DC zoning, occupancy, alcohol, and noise laws? His nightclubs must be cash cows because surely DC officials know better than to betray Federal government workers who live and pay taxes in these same neighborhoods. I mean, the Federal government IS the biggest employer in the Washington metropolitan area.

    By the way, can someone post Rehman's home address here? I'm looking for a place to open a nightclub, but I want to do so in an area where I know that at least one of the residents isn't going to be hypocritical enough to complain about a 100+ dB wall of sound blasting into his bedroom at 3AM in the morning.

  • Corruption at its worst

    So, the Washington CityPaper censors posts critical of the lawbreakers. At least now we know.