Band Slapped With Fine For Violating Downtown Noise Ordiance

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) —  A downtown noise ordnance fine handed to a local band has other musicians fighting back on social media and asking the city to reconsider the newly established noise decibel level.

This is a story WHNT News 19 broke earlier this month and we have received a lot of feedback from viewers on the topic.

(Photo illustration Facebook)

(Photo illustration Facebook)

Rob Aldridge and his band, Fatso’s, say they were handed a $500 fine Saturday night following the show at Humphrey’s Bar and Grill.

Aldridge says his band quickly became frustrated at being told to turn down their amplifiers. Huntsville police recently set a 62-decibel sound limit for live music on Humphrey’s outdoor patio because of noise complaints from some residents of the Belk Hudson Lofts apartment building across the street.

Aldridge said the band had to play at such a low volume that people in the crowd were offering them money to crank it up a notch.

“It absolutely killed the entire vibe of the show,” he said Monday. “We played every slow song we could think of, because we were afraid we’d be way over on the decibels with a fast song.

As the set drew to a close, Aldridge said he decided to give the crowd what it wanted and played a song at a “normal” level. After coming off stage, an employee from the Huntsville Division of Natural Resources wrote the band a $500 ticket for violating the city noise ordinance. The man had a sound meter trained on the band for much of Saturday night’s show, said Aldridge.

Humphrey’s has had live music on its patio for years, but there were hardly any people living downtown to hear it. That changed last October when the 75 unit Belk Hudson Lofts opened across Washington Street from Humphey’s.

Huntsville Police Sgt. Mark Roberts says city officials spent about two weeks measuring sound levels before arriving at the 62-decibel maximum for bands playing outside at Humphrey’s. At that volume, he said, people whose apartments face Washington Street should not be able to hear the music.

Belk Hudson Lofts owner Belk Hudson Lofts owner Charlie Sealy III said sound from Humphrey’s patio is funneled toward just “two or three” apartments on the upper floors. Sealy issued WHNT News 19 the following statement:

“We built Belk Hudson Lofts so that people could live in a vibrant downtown atmosphere and enjoy things such as live music.

We aren’t having noise problems except for one or two specific apartments, which are being impacted due to acoustics and an echo that is directed right towards them.

 The bar owner and I are working together to resolve this, and have come up with a plan that will cure this specific echo and acoustical situation without impacting the bands or their sound level.  We don’t see this being a problem moving forward. 

 As far as the fine goes, I do not know what occurred.  I have talked today with City officials, and they know that we at Belk Hudson Lofts are proponents of Humphrey’s and live music.  We don’t desire for live music or Humphrey’s to change, and we do not expect that or future fines.

 Places like Humphrey’s are the exact reason why Belk Hudson Lofts was built, and we will continue to be promoters of downtown arts, entertainment, and a vibrant atmosphere.”

Sealy said most Belk Hudson Lofts tenants want a “lively, vibrant” downtown that includes live music. He noted that Huntsville’s noise ordinance was on the books long before the apartment building was even a concept.

Music and downtown residences “have to be able to live and work together, and they will,” said Sealy. “This (noise ordinance) fine kind of came out of nowhere and surprised us all.”

Muscle Shoals-based singer-songrwiter Alrdidge said he might let the situation calm down before booking another gig at Humphrey’s. He said he was uncomfortable having to sign a waiver before Saturday’s show agreeing to be responsible for any noise-ordinance violations. The band was ticketed for playing its final song at 70 decibels.

By comparison, Aldridge said he was told to keep it below 98 decibels at a recent show in Montana. A typical rock concert measures 110 decibels.

A typical dishwasher, vacuum cleaner and flushing toilet produce more than 62 decibels of sound.

“I’m all about having a sound ordinance,”  Aldridge told our news partners at The Huntsville Times Monday, “but it’s damn near impossible not to exceed that 62-decibel limit. I’ve had conversations louder than that.”

(Our News partners at The Huntsville Times contributed to this report)

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