City Nickels’ New Nightlife Regulations
posted by October 26 at 17:36 PMon
Mayor Nickels’s Office of Film and Music just released its new nightclub regulations, which now apply to bars without entertainment (defined, somewhat obscurely, as places that serve liquor and have an occupant density of one person per seven square feet) as well as clubs. (The old version applied to any place that offered live entertainment of almost any kind—still a very broad definition.) Among the new provisions in the legislation:
â€˘ The definition of “impacted public areas” (where club owners must prevent litter and illegal behavior while the club is open and until half an hour after it closes) has been changed from “public property adjacent to the nightclub premises where either patrons or prospective patrons gatherâ€ť—an almost impossibly vague standard—to areas within 50 feet of a club’s entrance. That’s better, but still too large; as owners of clubs in Pioneer Square have pointed out, the public areas “impacted” by each club will frequently overlap, forcing club owners to patrol the sidewalk in front of each other’s properties.
â€˘ The noise standard has been loosened slightly, from noise “audible to a person of normal hearing” inside nearby buildings to “amplified sound [that] is plainly audible for a continuous period of sixty (60) seconds or longer to a person of normal hearing located either: 1) inside a residence or business other than the nightlife premises; or, 2) in a public place at a distance of seventy-five (75) feet or more from the nightlife premises.” Still pretty harsh, but better.
â€˘ The absurd requirement that clubs “prevent” crimes inside their premises has been revised to a requirement that clubs “take all reasonable steps to prevent [violent] criminal activity”—not as big a change as club owners wanted, but an improvement nonetheless. Standards requiring club owners to prevent patrons from bringing weapons and drugs onto the premises have been removed.
â€˘ A standard requiring clubs to have a staffed telephone line any time the club is open has been revised to require clubs to return calls within 24 hours.
Nightclubs would have their licenses suspended for seven days on the second violence or overcrowding violation, or the third violation of any rule, within a 24-month period—an improvement from the automatic suspension for a single violation in Nickels’s original legislation.
The club rules, notably, do not include another element of the plan that Nickels has long promised, but never delivered: Assistance to help nightlife thrive in Seattle. The new ordinance contains just three minor nods to Nickels’s original promise. The city will:
â€˘ Create a “Nightlife Premises Guideline Handbookâ€ť listing rules for nightlife.
â€˘ Designate a city office to serve as a liaison between club owners and the city.
â€˘ Providing training opportunities for club security.
So what does it all mean? Nickels, most likely, will take credit for compromising with nightclubs and implementing reasonable regulations, as well as funding the liaison position (something he’s been crowing about for a while.) Club owners, meanwhile, will likely breathe a sigh of relief that the rules are so much less onerous than the mayor’s original proposal—and kvetch that the new ordinance does virtually nothing to help clubs. And the Stranger will point out a few things the city could do that would dramatically improve opportunities for nightlife businesses in the city, such 24-hour liquor licenses; requiring people who move into noisy nightlife districts to sign waivers acknowledging they know the nature of the businesses around them; and requiring better noise insulation on new and refurbished condos and apartments, not just clubs.
The mayor’s task force on nightlife will meet next Monday, October 30, to discuss the latest proposal, which has to be approved by the city council before it can become law.