El Paso

Residents, bar owners spar at council meeting over proposed El Paso noise ordinance

Noise ordinance controversy

EL PASO, Texas - On Tuesday, the El Paso City Council discussed the noise ordinance that is set to go into effect Aug. 26. The city said it has been working on the ordinance for two years.


Several representatives said they worked with local bar owners and residents to come up with a plan to mitigate noise complaints, while also coming up with ways to not harm business.


"I have nothing against the bars but I'm going to protect the residential owners because if you are playing your music, doesn't mean that the residential owner has to hear it," Henry River, city representative for district 7 said. "Most of you have called me business killer and I vehemently oppose that because I'm pro business, but at the same time I'm going to help out my residential owners."


City hall was filled with dozens of bars owners and employees who disagreed with the changes and asked representatives to amend the ordinance.


The ordinance requires permits for bars and businesses in order to play music outside. The permits apply to any business that is within a 200 foot radius of a residential neighborhood. The business would have to present a sound impact plan for the area, such as placing sound barriers, at the business owner's expense, in order to contain the noise. Along with the ordinance, outdoor music would cease at midnight, instead of 2 a.m. If a business does not have a permit, the music would need to cease at 10 p.m. As of Tuesday, the city said there have not been any businesses that have applied for a permit.


The Bar and Restaurant Association of El Paso argued that stopping the music at 12 a.m. would be detrimental for bars.


"By effectively closing our outdoor space at midnight you will cut a significant portion of our overall revenue," Austin Alan said President of El Paso Bars and Restaurant association said. "70 percent of sales happen between 12 a.m. to 2 a.m."


Residents who live near the Cincinnati district urged council to pass the amendment claiming the noise and music coming from nearby bars have impacted the quality of life for residents in the area.


"If any bars would be closed because of this ordinance going into effect, it would not be the fault of the ordinance," a homeowner speaking at city council said "It would be the fault of the business owner's disregard for the neighborhoods in which they willingly chose to establish their businesses."


"There are very few circumstances across the city that have driven this ordinance into existence," Alan said. "I don't think us as a community can allow a few bad seeds to spoil the pot."


The ordinance does not apply to bars in downtown. The city voted to discuss amendments to the ordinance on Sept. 3.

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