A judge has forced the Marigny bar to stop presenting live music until it gets the proper permits.
September 27, 2012 was an emotional day for the New Orleans music community. That afternoon, musicians, club owners, bartenders, fans, journalists and others met at Kermit's Speakeasy for a heated meeting expressing concern over the perceived crackdown by the city on zoning and permitting violations. The meeting was contentious and led to the formation of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO), but the day ended with a win: The city declared a temporary moratorium on enforcement. In a statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said:
I’ve instructed the City’s enforcement agencies to enforce the law fairly and to take a customer-friendly approach. This means that we offer assistance in securing the appropriate permits to businesses that have been offering live music for years. In most cases, the City does not need to immediately issue summonses or administrative subpoenas, if a business owner agrees to work actively to secure the required permits.
To learn how to come into compliance with City law, cultural businesses can contact my Office of Cultural Economy.
We are a city of music, and we are a city of neighborhoods. We will work to strike a balance so that they can exist together.
The two venues that were most immediately affected by that moratorium were Siberia and Mimi's in the Marigny. Both had stopped voluntarily - Siberia because it feared what would happen to its long term future as a live music venue if it was caught offering live music without a permit. At Mimi's, neighbors had called the police, but they arrived after the band had quit for the night and left. Out of concern for what could happen to the bar if it was caught presenting live music in violation of its zoning, it stopped as well. Once the temporary moratorium was declared, bands and DJ Soul Sister's Saturday night "Hustle" party returned.
Siberia currently books a full slate of live music, but at the end of last week, Judge Michael Bagneris told attorneys for Mimi's in the Marigny that it could no longer do the same until it had the necessary permits. On Friday afternoon, Mimi's Facebook page announced, "Due to some unfortunate events, the DJs will NOT be spinning records tonight" - DJs are considered "live entertainment" in the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance - and on Saturday, its Facebook page announced, "We regret to inform you that Mimi's has to suspend music for the time being."
According to one report:
the residents claim Mimi’s in the Marigny is violating the city’s noise ordinance and various Alcohol and Beverage permit regulations, but most importantly, the club has operated as a unlicensed live music club in the Historic Marigny Commercial (HMC) Zone One district.
The Safety and Permits Department denied all applications for live music clubs in the HMC-1 zone because it is a residential area, but after Hurricane Katrina, several establishments like Mimi’s added live music without proper permitting.
Five families said their appeals to the Mayor, City Council and city agencies have fallen on deaf ears, and in a final act of desperation, they sought a court injunction against the bar, which offers both live and electronic music into the wee hours of the morning.
Attorneys admitted in court that they lacked permits to operate as a music club.
Mimi's Facebook page says not all of the facts in that story are correct, but it doesn't specify which ones. "Because of the lawsuit, we are not able to discuss the details of the case," it says. "In addition, we choose not to slam our neighbors."
Bagneris' ruling raises interesting questions. If Mimi's had not started the process of trying to get the proper permits, did that affect the ruling? Did the Mayor's temporary moratorium have any governing power over the courts, or only over police?
Scott Hutcheson, advisor to the Mayor on Cultural Economy, had the following statement:
Judge Michael Bagneris made a request that the owners of Mimi’s in the Marigny suspend live music until they have obtained the appropriate live entertainment permit. The owners have begun that process with the City of New Orleans. It is important for live entertainment businesses to be in compliance with the City’s regulations to protect the quality of life of our citizens and the interests of the music community. As always, we’re committed to striking a balance that so that both can exist harmoniously.