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.
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.”