If music is in the ear of the listener, then expect cacophony Thursday, when downtown Miami nightclub owners who want citations for loud music dismissed face off against residents who want the city’s noise law enforced.
Three 24-hour clubs that operate on Northeast 11th Street will ask the city at a pivotal hearing to dismiss $500 tickets that were issued over Memorial Day weekend. Tortured tower dwellers who live nearby along Biscayne Boulevard plan to ask that intrusive electronic dance music played nonstop during the clubs’ rooftop shows be contained inside Club Space, Heart Nightclub and E11even.
“We’ve had enough of the destruction of the enjoyment of our homes,” said Allan Schwartz, who lives on the 33rd floor of the Marquis building at 1100 Biscayne Boulevard and is president of its owners association. “We expected city noise when we bought or rented apartments in the entertainment district, but we did not expect the law to be broken 52 weekends a year.”
Schwartz hailed E11even’s decision to silence rooftop music, but said Heart “continues unabated to stick its finger in the eye of residents when all of this is cured by turning a knob.”
E11even, which advertises itself as “Open 24/7. No Sleep,” has filed a motion to dismiss based on the argument that code compliance officers cited noise they heard from the street but not from within the condominiums.
“It was not noise that penetrated into a dwelling,” said Louis J. Terminello, a Miami attorney who represents E11even’s owners. “It has to disturb a resident’s dwelling or hotel room and the officers were not up inside the residences so we believe these tickets were issued in error.”
Miami’s noise ordinance states that any noise audible more than 100 feet from the source is a violation. It was rarely enforced at night or on weekends because no code compliance officers worked late hours. Calls were routed to police, but police could not issue citations. In May, Commissioner Ken Russell, Assistant City Manager Alberto Parjus and Code Compliance Director Orlando Diez responded to residents’ growing chorus of complaints and assigned staff to a midnight shift that is deployed throughout the city.
During a Memorial Day weekend crackdown, Parjus was on 11th Street at 3 a.m. when $500 citations were issued to all three clubs on Friday and Saturday. If violations accrue beyond two, the city can suspend business licenses.
The clubs, which have conducted sound emission studies, plan to appeal at the administrative hearing. Residents, armed with their own sound measurements that show that the subwoofer bass beat is especially disruptive, plan to attend the hearing to demonstrate support for the law. Their weekends matter just as much as those of Miami’s club-goers, they say. Now that their numbers have swelled to 88,000 residents in a denser downtown, they say, it’s time for the clubs that enlivened a former no-man’s land to co-exist with their neighbors, turn down the volume or move.
“The damage from excessive noise is financially incalculable,” Schwartz said. “There are unrentable units in the buildings because of the noise. The most expensive building in Miami will be the Zaha Hadid-designed building, and it’s going to suffer, as will other buildings going up.
“We don’t want to put anyone out of business. We just want their noise to stay west of Second Avenue.”
Schwartz said residents are encouraged by E11even’s compromise. The club has moved rooftop shows inside its soundproofed building.
“We have to protect our clients’ interests,” said Terminello, who also claimed that Miami’s law is unconstitutional. “But that doesn’t mean we’re declaring war or want to be adversarial. We are sympathetic to the residents. To wit, we shut down our rooftop. We want to resolve this issue.
“With the rooftop closed, we believe they cannot measure one wisp of sound from within the condos.”
But Heart Nightclub and, to a lesser extent, Club Space are still boom-boom-booming away from Friday night to early Monday morning, allowing DJs to entertain patrons during vampire hours with music that drifts to the condos’ upper floors, seeps through walls and causes windows to shudder.
“The chief source of the problem is Heart, with Space as a minor offender but still an offender,” Schwartz said. “E11even’s ownership wants to terminate offenses in the district, which does nothing but bring a dark name to the district. Downtown has changed and this situation has got to change, too.”
Space has made efforts to curb noise, and Heart Nightclub has consulted with an acoustical engineer. Michael Slyder, CFO of Heart and president of the Miami Entertainment District Association, said his proposal to conduct sound analysis from within condo units was rejected by residents.
Heart will challenge the citations, Slyder said, but wants to cooperate with neighbors while recognizing that the clubs were there first, invited by the city to invest in a blighted area south of the I-395 overpass in 2000, before the downtown condo building boom.