It looks like we've got a wet blanket on our hands in the form of a disgruntled Baltic Room neighbor who—surprise, surprise—moved within blocks of a nightclub and thinks it's too loud. A large number of complaints, apparently from one individual, have led SPD to make a series of visits to the club lately, most recently on Wednesday night during Decibel's Mary Anne Hobbs show. I received an email from Decibel's Sean Horton outlining the situation:
On Wednesday April 13th 2011, from approximately 10pm until 1:10am, we were continually threatened by the SPD with a possible shut down and incarceration when we were clearly under the 90dB noise ordinance limit (readings came in at an average of 75dB through out the night, while standing directly out front of The Baltic Room at 1207 Pine St). We monitored the volume all night and I can say for certain that had the police been monitoring the volume with their own dB meter, they would have come to the same conclusion. If we're under the limit, how are we breaking any law and how can we be threatened with a shut down/incarceration if there's no police evidence that we were over the limit? Until we get an actual reading from the police, this sort of threat is unjustified.
Det. Mark Jamieson, SPD's media relations officer, implied that as long as the club continues to work with the city that the issue can be worked out in a manner agreeable to all parties involved. Their criteria for determining what is an acceptable noise level, however, is a little ambiguous. The legal dB limit on the books is not the only factor used when determining if the volume is considered excessive. Other factors are based largely on the officers discretion, such as their general sense of the noise outside the club and whether or not it can be heard directly in the complainant'(s) residence, Jamieson said.
Events will continue to happen at Baltic Room, but will the SPD be on hand monitoring dB levels all night? Talk about a buzz-kill. Hopefully the new sound-proofing measures will alleviate the issue before things escalate any further. It'd be unfortunate to see the opinion of one person threaten the entire sustainability of a club that has done so much to up their game in terms of renovations and quality bookings and has become a vital spot for electronic music in Seattle.