New rules mean Seattle cops can issue tickets for nightlife shenanigans

In what is expected to be one of several efforts in coming days related to Mayor Mike McGinn’s 8-point nightlife safety initiative, the Seattle City Council voted Monday to enable SPD to mete out more aggressive punishment for making ‘unreasonable’ noise at night. The ordinance is designed to give Seattle police officers a more useful toolset in dealing with nighttime patrons of the city’s increasingly politically powerful — and, perhaps, economically important — bars and clubs as other rules and initiatives related to nightlife businesses are liberalized and expanded.



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Originally uploaded by tamara’s flickr account

One well-publicized element of the mayor’s plans is changing city and state rules related to the hours in which alcohol can be served — it’s possible that within the next year, Capitol Hill bars will be able to serve around the clock. Another initiative we were first to report here on CHS involves potentially shutting down streets in entertainment districts like Pike/Pine and creating outdoor party areas.  With these kinds of possibilities moving toward reality and the recent troubles will violence in Belltown’s nightlife, City Hall appears to be adding some new tools to SPD and other city services’ arsenals — and fixing a few more that weren’t quite working.

The new rules make fighting, threatening another person, or making unreasonable noise in a Seattle commercially zoned area between the hours of midnight and 5 AM worthy of a $100 fine. In the current enforcement environment, getting in a minor tough guy tangle usually doesn’t escalate to the level where the cuffs go on until somebody gets hurt. Same with idiots yelling up for Stacy to come down and let them in the building. These new rules are intended to give the cops something to do besides break up yet another sidewalk fight or tell a noisy club crowd to quiet down.

We won’t know how this works out for three months and won’t see cops issuing any of these tickets to noisy party kids this weekend. Becomes it involves noise, the new law requires a review from the State Department of Ecology. That can take up to 90 days, City Council says.

The mayor’s nightlife initiative survey is still open for feedback, by the way.

Here’s the announcement from the Council:

Council passes nighttime disturbance ordinance for nightlife districts

Seattle Police to give $100 tickets for fighting, threats, unreasonable noise from midnight to 5 a.m.

The Seattle City Council today unanimously passed what some have called the “meat-head ordinance,” which will allow Seattle Police officers to give tickets for after-hours disturbances in Seattle’s nightlife districts. The legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Nick Licata, enacts the number one recommendation of the Nightlife Advisory Board, created by the City Council to promote the co-existence of residents and nightlife establishments in Seattle’s vibrant neighborhoods.  The legislation is also included in Mayor McGinn’s Seattle Nightlife Initiative, an eight-point plan to increase public safety, grow our nighttime economy and improve urban vibrancy. 

Licata said, “This bill passed because groups on all sides of this issue were willing to make compromises. The new law should address most of the behavioral problems police encounter when crowds leave the bars. It provides them with a preventive alternative to address unruly bar patrons on the sidewalks.” 

The law allows Seattle police officers to give $100 citations between midnight and 5 a.m. in public areas for fighting, threatening another person, or making unreasonable noise. The ordinance applies in Downtown Seattle, Belltown, and other business districts throughout Seattle. The ordinance also requires a report in 2011 by the Chief of Police and the City Attorney on its use in reducing nighttime disturbances. It will go into effect after a State Department of Ecology review, as legally required for laws involving noise. The review can take up to 90 days. 

In moving the legislation forward, Councilmember Licata reached out to groups including neighborhood community councils and business groups, the Downtown Seattle Association, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the ACLU, and homeless groups. The legislation was developed after meeting with the Seattle Police Department and Seattle’s Law Department. 

Said Mayor McGinn, “Undesirable behavior by patrons after they leave nightlife establishments is an ongoing concern.  We now have legislation that will hold disrespectful club goers accountable, which is another proactive approach of the City’s comprehensive nightlife initiative.” 

Licata added, “I thank the Mayor for his support on this legislation and his leadership in contributing to a healthy climate for neighborhoods and nightlife.”

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16 thoughts on “New rules mean Seattle cops can issue tickets for nightlife shenanigans

  1. I hope they give these out like parking tickets.

    Dear Seattle Police

    Please don’t worry about jay-walkers unless they cause issues with traffic or do something dangerous. But DO ticket the hell out of the damn girls who are screaming all the time outside my window at 2AM.

    Side note: Why are they always screaming? What is with all the screaming? Laughing I understand, shouting to get a friends attention, yelling at the car who didn’t stop at the crosswalk.. I get all that. But the shrieking I just don’t understand.

  2. Hopefully all that ticket $$$ will be enough incentive for SPD to come back to the Hill and catch a few of the roving gangs robbing people around here…
    On the plus side, I’ve seen an increased police presence in the pike/pine corridor. And not just parking cops!

  3. etaoin — You’ve been posting your dislike for the Lookout for months now. I don’t doubt you dislike it. But there are plenty of legitimate avenues to act on that dislike that would be more effective than gumming up our comments space with this stuff. I’m leaving this one in place but advance the conversation or cut it out.

    The Lookout is a CHS advertiser and I appreciate their business but that has nothing to do with my fatigue for your ongoing campaign.

  4. Hey JSeattle,

    I know you are the moderator here, but I used to live on that corner above the Lookout and I can say that I understand the disdain.

    I no longer live there, but before the Lookout that was a very quiet part of the hill.

    I’m guessing you are a rock-hard sleeper if drunks screaming at 2 in the morning doesn’t bother you.

  5. I didn’t know there was a subjective bar for the quality level of a comment.

    It is ok to post random incoherent comments on almost every post (you know who I am talking about) but this isn’t ok. That doesn’t make much sense.

  6. No issue regarding coherence or if Lookout is or isn’t a good neighbor. My issue is repeating the same message over and over again in comments.

  7. I think the comment was pretty relevant considering the article was about nightlife in Seattle getting out of hand…

    I know the Lookout is a sponsor of yours, but sometimes the only way a bar gets in-line is if they realize how many neighbors they are upsetting – by, yes, bad publicity.

    Isn’t that the freedom of blogging?

  8. Thanks JSeattle. That guy is really irritating. I live next to a bar and guess what? I deal with it. I have 2 fans going and ear plugs for when it get’s really rowdy out there. No one cares, etaoin shrdlu.

  9. Sadly, the Lookout was the first thing I thought of when I read this story. Because I didn’t think of “bar noise”, which the bar can control…I thought of gangs of patrons standing on the sidewalk SCREAMING!! (pick your hour) for no reason other than they haven’t really thought twice about it.

    Pike/Pine? Belltown? Sure…but this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on north end cap hill. There’s 6 or 7 big old apt buildings just a few feet away. I’m hoping the Lookout can consider the Canterbury, where the staff make it pretty clear that you are in a neighborhood and to please keep it down outside.

  10. @jseattle

    i don’t understand your issue with this person. so, they post the same comment over and over again on different posts. it’s not like they are posting the same comment 500 times over and over on one post. and mostly when i’ve seen it posted it’s in response to an article about noise issues with a business.

    this is your blog and you have the right to make the rules but if you’re going to make the rule, “post a comment topic no more than ‘X’ number of times,” then you need to make that clear in the TOS.

  11. it’s the same near denny/olive/summit. you have more than 10 bars within a 3 block radius and come 2am people decide to yell at the top of their lungs as they walk down the sidewalk; no notice given to the tall apartment buildings all around them.

    unfortunately it’s not just a north capitol hill thing, it’s a lack of respect thing from people who have had way more to drink than they should have. the problem i see with this ordinance is there aren’t enough cops around to hit everywhere, every night. i think ticketing “meat heads” is a good idea but i don’t see there being any real teeth to change behaviors in it.

  12. Agreed, there’s plenty of earsplitting nighttime revelry all over the hill, but in this patch it seems fixed to the moment when the Lookout opened. It was a mom and pop grocery from the 1930s until fairly recently. Anyway, apologies for over-localizing the discussion.

    I think the point of the law is to take the establishments that spill their caterwauling patrons onto the sidewalk at 1:00 OUT of the picture and address said caterwaulers as citation-worthy individuals.

  13. The site’s goal is to foster productive communication. Slamming a local business by name again and again falls below the productive bar. There are good avenues to do something about the situation. This isn’t about the Lookout. If you, zeeble, have something to say about them, go for it. Same with etaoin if it’s something new like “I called the cops and they didn’t do anything.” And when that happens, etaoin should comment about it until CHS or another site looks into the situation. But right now, we’re not aware of anything but one person displaying troll-like tendencies in the comments. We’re easy to reach if there’s more we should know chs@capitolhillseattle.com