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New Orleans neighborhood coalition urges volume control

Musicians play at Checkpoint Charlie's Musicians play at Checkpoint Charlie's

New Orleans, La. - On a sunny summer evening, music drifts out the door of Checkpoint Charlie's.  It's how the bar brings in customers and the musicians make money.

"If the doors are closed, you're missing the chance that people are going to open them," says Nervous Duane, a guitarist. "If the door's already open and they hear the music and they look in, there's more possibility that people will come into the bar."

Duane says neighbors have complained about the noise before and now he's worried the city will make him turn down the music.

A coalition of 13 neighborhood associations from New Orleans East to the Bywater want the City Council to fix, and then enforce, its noise ordinance.

"This is not anti-musician," says coalition chair Nathan Chapman. "In fact we think we'll have a better music experience if the volume's reasonable where we can all live in harmony."

Chapman says there are important items needed in the current ordinance to give it teeth. He says the city should hire a full-time employee who deals only with noise levels and complaints.

Chapman also thinks fines need to be increased, with repeat offenders facing limited hours or shut downs. The volume in the French Quarter, he says, needs to be lowered.

"At one time, they raised them higher than the rest of the city and that's when all these problems started," says Chapman. "We had a perfectly wonderful tourism industry before that point and people loved to go to Bourbon Street and so this wasn't something that caused a lot of problems."

The council amended the noise ordinance regarding loudspeakers last year. Now venues in the Central Businesses District and French Quarter have to place their speakers 10 feet from the door, facing away from the street.

The council hasn't taken up the new recommendations, but Chapman hopes to get the discussion on the agenda sometime this summer.

Aoleon Larie plans to spend her summer playing in local venues. She's trying to build a following and worries what a tougher noise ordinance could do.

"You can put up flyers everywhere, you can tell everyone, Facebook, but generally speaking, the predominant people who come in are people who are just walking by," she says.

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