The common thread between noise and zoning-related controversies? A lack of enforcement.

On Sunday, my story on zoning issues on Frenchmen Street ran in The New Orleans Advocate, and it was only part of the story. There's additional work to be done on how Frenchmen Street has affected property values in the neighborhood, and how the current zoning creates a lack of equality on Frenchmen. The New Orleans Moonshiners correctly pointed out on Twitter that it benefits the venues that were grandfathered in despite the overlay, but the lack of enforcement has been advantageous for those operating as live music venues while officially restaurants.

I understand the frustration and anger of those venues that are restaurants more in name than practice because they've built business models based on the premise of operating very much like a live music venue. They shouldn't have since they knew their zoning going in, but the years of occasional, haphazard enforcement gave them reason to believe that the rules only exist on paper - that they're acknowledged with a wink but don't really apply. Still, like someone driving for years with an expired brake tag, the owners can't feel like they've been unfairly treated when they're finally stopped.

“Enforcement has been inconsistent at best,” says District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. “It’s reactionary. There’s no good answer except that all laws need to be enforced equitably and fairly.” The lack of consistent enforcement is a theme that has emerged in other cases when music and zoning have been in conflict recently, just as it has in noise-related controversies.

“Every once in a while, [the police] will come by and tell you you’re supposed to close the door, but they’re also supposed to tell the street bands to stop and to tell the illegal street vendors to stop,” Three Muses' Sophie Lee says. “They don’t do that. They tell the brass band to stop at 8, but a half-hour later they start up again.” 
According to Councilmember-at-Large Jackie Clarkson, enforcement has been a problem throughout her career in City Council. “Whenever we try to deal with entertainment, we get accused of not loving the culture.”