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Johns Creek's 37 Main shuts down over noise issues

With Melissa Ruggieri, the regular music writer taking a well-deserved break today, I'm throwing in stuff as they come to help her out.

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Monday, August 8, 2016

For the past two years, Johns Creek music venue 37 Main has hosted mostly rock cover bands on weekends celebrating the likes of Bon Jovi, Guns 'N Roses and U2.

But nearby neighbors found the noise bleed unbearable, filing multiple noise complaints.

A new strict noise ordinance passed in late July clearly targeting the venue forced management's hand, as covered by my colleague Laura Thompson. 37 Main has shuttered its doors as a result. (A Buford location remains.)

The owners didn't go down without a fight.  The city and the venue management did try to come up with a workable solution. 37 Main made building improvements that helped with some noise problems but not all of them. Some neighbors continued to complain. The city said it ultimately had no choice but to listen to its residents after working hard to try to come up with a compromise.

37 Main's owners are now are seeking a new venue, possibly in Alpharetta or Roswell.

On its Facebook page, it noted: 

For the past 3 months, the city made it hard for us to operate our business. Having to end bands at 11pm is just not a business model that we've worked 8+ years to create. It's tremendously hard for a business like 37 Main to survive being forced to end their night so early. Unfortunately, we are not Chastain, Verizon, or any of the other outdoor venues that have curfews instilled. Unlike these venues, we do not charge as much for our tickets. The city cut our possibility of selling food and drinks by 6 hours every weekend (with the 11pm curfew) and 35 hours every week (with the 9pm curfew) Their 9pm and 11pm curfews caused our business to drop 25% over night. Then, this past Monday night, the Johns Creek city council passed an ordinance that finally caused the doors to shut. The ordinance prevented us from having any bands because it states that sound cannot be plainly audible during any point of the day (of course that does not to apply to their amphitheater).

Lara Thompson, who lives in Tucker (and is not related at all to the AJC writer), regularly visited 37 Main. "I've been to plenty of shows there. I've been in the parking lot and you can't hear the music in the parking lot," she said in an interview today. "People don't like the idea of a bar/club in front of their neighborhood. It was a good business. It was a great set up. You don't have many options in this part of town." She said the Buford location is too small, relatively speaking.

UPDATE: Jeff Breslau, the communications director at Johns Creek, contacted me, saying he felt I didn't fully explain the city's side of the story:

One of the things your piece omitted was that 37 Main was cited and convicted under the old ordinance. Not the new one.  This information is located on our website and in court documents, which are available to the media and the public.  The curfew is a result of failure to comply and has nothing to do with the new ordinance.  Most nights, noise was not a problem.  However, on the nights they chose to operate with higher sound levels, it was a problem

Regarding the new ordinance, “plainly audible” is a reasonable person approach which is defensible in court and there is a lot of case law available to you from around the country as well.  The easiest example I can think of with plainly audible is that if your city set the decibel limit to 60.  If you could hear noise at 1 a.m. in the morning and you called police and they came into your house and the sound meter measured 59, there is nothing you could do.  Even though both you and the officer can hear the noise, you have lost your rights to quiet in your own home because the decibel number is below your city’s ordinance.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.