A judge has issued a temporary injunction against a Dallas Street nightclub that city officials said has accrued more than 100 citations for noise ordinance violations.

The overview

The club, El Poblado, located at 702 W. Dallas St., Houston, near the Fourth Ward, is owned by the company District One Inc.

During an Aug. 25 news conference, Sallie Alcorn, at-large Houston City Council member and chair of the city's Regulatory and Neighborhood Affairs Committee, said the city has been trying to crack down on repeated noise ordinance violators after revising ordinances in 2022.

"Bars and nightclubs are very important to Houston’s economy," Alcorn said during the news conference. "We want our city to have a robust nightlife scene, and we are grateful for all the wonderful venues that act as good neighbors and play by the rules."

The backstory

The city's efforts to revise its noise ordinance date back to November 2020, when the Alcorn and the rest of the Regulatory and Neighborhood Affairs Committee heard testimony from residents across the city on issues with excessive noise and the inability to hold businesses accountable to existing rules.

Officials spent several years studying ordinance revisions before adopting them in May 2022. New ordinances became official in September 2022, including:
  • Increasing the maximum fine for noise ordinance violations from $1,000 to $2,000
  • Requiring permits be issued to establishments, not individuals
  • Creating a new commercial establishment permit required for bars and other venues within 300 feet of residences in order for them to play amplified sound that could be heard outdoors after 10 p.m. during weeknights and after 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Restricting all outside amplified sound between 2-6 a.m.
  • Creating an administrative hearing process for the revocation of a permit with focus on repeat violations
Repeat violators would be given an opportunity to create a sound impact plan designed to mitigate loud noise going out into neighborhood. Under the new noise ordinance, they have 90 days to implement the plan. Failure to abide by the plan could result in a 180-day suspension of the permit or a one-year revocation.

The details

After repeat noise ordinance violations, an administrative hearing date took place May 2 for El Poblado, which bar officials did not attend, Alcorn said. The bar continued to allow outdoor sound and received more citations for violating the noise ordinance.

Houston officials then filed a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief, and Judge Fredericka Phillips granted the request Aug. 22. El Poblado's commercial establishment permit was revoked, meaning the business can no longer play amplified sound outdoors due to its proximity to residential areas.

Digging deeper

The judge's ruling included the following stipulations:
  • District One shall comply with decibel levels and not use outdoor sound amplification on any part of its premises until the city issues the required permit. District One is not eligible to reapply for a new permit before May 10.
  • District One must remove or disconnect all outdoor amplification equipment until they get a new permit.
  • District One must use sound measuring devices to keep a record of noise levels on its premises, providing data to the Houston Police Department on a weekly basis.
What they're saying

"This judgment should put repeat violators on notice that the city is serious about enforcing the noise ordinance and we will hold repeat violators accountable," Alcorn said at the news conference.

What else

District D Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, who also spoke at the Aug. 25 news conference, said she would like municipal courts to look into having hearings on noise ordinance violations in the evenings, which she said would make it easier for police officers to attend. Currently, Evans-Shabazz said officers who issue citations might have to work past the end of their shift if they want to attend the hearing. If no officer attends the hearing, that can lead to a case getting thrown out, she said.

"If this going on at night, and we have night court, I think it would be the thing to do to help enforce this ordinance," Evans-Shabazz said.

What's next

The terms of the temporary injunction are in effect until further order of the court, and a permanent injunction trial is set for July 22.