Enforcement vs. Culture: Winning the battle while losing the war?

From WWL TV: Live music stopped at popular New Orleans venues due to licensing rules

It seems that the sky’s the limit when it comes to enumerating the many and varied ways in which this latest enforcement action is just plain wrong.

I frankly have a hunch that the City of New Orleans’ Bureau of Revenue will lose more in taxes that would have been collected via food & beverage sales at the venues affected than will be derived from the fees associated with those venues obtaining live music permits. Here’s hoping that they will work to expedite the issuance of the permits and that patrons of these locations will make an effort to support these businesses in the interim.

While I am generally in favor of the rules applying to all, it does seem that there could have been a better way to address the enforcement of this permit requirement. (For example, does Siberia really need to be silenced until “mid-December,” waiting to become compliant?) It’s not as if the affected venues and their employees don’t already have to deal with the “August slump” without this sudden focus on enforcement being added into the mix.

As our Mayor warned the citizens who attended a District C community meeting in September 2011: “When the city does start cracking down on enforcement of the laws, Landrieu warned, it will be ‘across the board.’ So, he concluded, quoting his mother, ‘Be careful what you ask for.'”

I don’t recall anyone in attendance at that community meeting asking for stepped-up enforcement regarding live music permits; meanwhile, the lack of enforcement re: short-term rentals (where there is no protection provided for harmed or wronged guests) remains unaddressed… By comparison, it would seem that heavy-handed bureaucratic enforcement of a permitting issue with little risk of actual harm outweighs the very real risks regarding properties not subject to inspection and instances of scamming resulting from fraudulent and illegal rentals.

Note, too, that this isn’t the first poorly-conceived and thoroughly bungled crackdown by the City’s Bureau of Revenue: Mardi Gras, meet the new Administration.

I have no complaints whatsoever about live music performances in my ‘hood (and probably never will — my life here automatically has its own unique soundtrack every day and I love it all the more for that fact). I do, however, take issue with bars and businesses blasting a classic-yet-generic ’80s Journey chart-topper or the latest pop hit sensation at a volume where the song being played can be identified immediately more than a half a block down the street. Knock that crap out of the equation first, instead of reducing employment opportunities for local musicians.

(When’s the last time you heard a catchy tune blaring from a T-shirt shop and thought, “Gee! I like that song! I think I’ll buy that inane ‘I put ketchup on my ketchup!’ t-shirt right now!”? Yet talented musicians playing — even when there are cover tunes involved — will lure me into a venue almost every time.)

Walter “Wolfman” Washington at d.b.a. on 4-25-12.

In an informal online discussion regarding the WWL news story, friends added the following comments:

Debby: “A better way… you mean like enforcing it all the time instead of just now? That’s what is wrong here…”

Kim: “Typical city bull crap. They don’t want to address what the real concern of the citizens is. The consistent egregious behavior of some ridiculously loud live music venues on Bourbon St. and instead go out and ‘enforce’ against all the other music venues. Be careful what we ask for? Of course we have to be careful, because they will do exactly the opposite of what people have asked!”

Earl: “If they would have issued a warning and allowed them enough time to get the proper licenses while continuing to have music, they would have had a win-win. The city would still be getting their tax revenue and finally their license fees and the bars wouldn’t have to stop their music shows.”

Alex: “Half the time they won’t give you the right license and then try to ding you for being non-compliant. We need to remember the city government is supposed to work for us rather than just grant some of us the ability to make a living. More people should be pissed about this. How is this benefiting the city? Especially one known for its live music.” He added, “I am sick and tired of city government taking credit for the hard work and talent of New Orleanians by saying, ‘Look what we let them do! Aren’t we the best?’ Get the hell out of the way and fix some potholes and put away violent criminals. Once you have that down we can talk about what to fix next. Pretty sure where someone can sing or dance is way down on the list.”

3 thoughts on “Enforcement vs. Culture: Winning the battle while losing the war?

  1. This kind of behavior reminds me of the asinine “zero tolerance” policies at schools that leave no leeway for thought or addressing individual cases. It’s like city government is determined to do everything back asswards.

  2. Update: The Circle Bar has been issued its mayoralty permit to once again feature live music: The Circle is Unbroken (via MySpiltMilk.com).

    Also seeking clarification/confirmation whether or not Siberia will also have its permit as of Monday, 8/13/12. (Update: The answer from Siberia staff is no: “Not us. We’re gonna be down for a while.”)

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