City Desk

D.C.’s Noisiest Bars, According to the District Government


There's a lot of noise being made these days about, well, noise.

Last month, I followed around the D.C. Nightlife Noise Coalition, a group that formed to combat what it says are Dupont's excessively noisy bars. And in March, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration announced that its joint noise task force with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Metropolitan Police Department would launch a new campaign to better enforce the D.C. noise-control laws.

ABRA released the results of the task force's first six weeks, in which it made unannounced visits to 73 establishments across the city between that had already been the subject of complaints from residents. Of the 73 establishments the task force visited between March 13 and April 25, it stopped at 46 of them more than once, for a total of 191 sound checks.

The results: D.C. nightlife isn't that uncontrollably loud. The task force visited the bars on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays and found nine noise violations in all, coming from just five bars.

Of those nine, seven were in violation of an ABRA rule that states, with some exceptions, that establishments that hold liquor licenses cannot "produce any sound, noise, or music of such intensity that it may be heard in any premises other than the licensed establishment." The establishments can also be hit with an ABRA violation if it violates any of the noise-related provisions of its specific liquor license. Two of the establishments violated the DCRA's Noise Control Act, which limits the sound emanating from establishments to 60 decibels in commercial zones, or about the sound level of a normal conversation.

So which establishments are the noisy renegades?

  • Rosebar on 1215 Connecticut Avenue received one ABRA violation on March 14 and one DCRA violation on April 24.
  • NY NY Diva 2406 18th Street NW received three ABRA violations on March 15, March 21, and March 27.
  • New Town Kitchen and Lounge on 1336 U Street NW received a DCRA violation on March 22 and an ABRA violation on April 25.
  • El Nuevo Migueleno on 1721 Columbia Road NW received an ABRA violation on March 23.
  • The Dunes, which is set to close for good tomorrow, on 1400 Meridian Place NW received an ABRA violation on April 25.

Click here to read the full list of bars that the task force visited. All the bars that violated the sound laws were visited at least one time when their sound level was in compliance with city law.

All the establishments that were in violation of ABRA laws are referred to the agency's board for enforcement action, which could result in fines. Those that violated DCRA law would get a written warning for a first-time offense and subsequently receive a citation, which is a $1,000 for the first time.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • DC employee, DC resident.

    The meters used by the DC government do not accurately/equally measure decibel across the acoustic spectrum. Specifically, they are less accurate at measuring bass- the low end of the spectrum- which accounts for the most complaints.
    I was told this by a chief inspector.

  • erik

    Obviously they've never heard of (see what i did there?)Nellies or the Brixton. The noise and music from their rooftops can be heard 3-4 blocks away, yet people only want to protest the small businesses trying to get a patio license.

  • http://none Joel

    The entire law is subjective, based on complaining neighbors and needs to be challenged in court. This is SERIOUS regulatory and legal overreach.

  • RichManPoorWorld

    I wonder if anyone is like me. These violations make me want to visit those places. I have passed by Rosebar for a few years and now it is sounds hot and happening to me.

  • JeffB

    Please please please visit the Indulj on U St. They put their band right in the front window of the place and the drums and noise from that place rattle the windows in the buildings across the street.

  • Duponter

    RoseBar is now closed.