A couple months ago I attended a free show at a local record store. Just as the opening band wrapped up, some cops showed up and shut it down, telling us they’d had a noise complaint. It was hot so the doors had been opened, and it was kind of loud directly outside of the business, but it was early—the sun hadn’t even set—and there have been countless shows at this store throughout the years without a single complaint. When the cops came in, they seemed completely baffled by what was going on. They grilled my friends on what they were doing. No one was moshing or drinking or doing anything illegal, but as soon as the cops saw there were a bunch of crusty punk kids standing around in a crowd, they got defensive. The store owner was being respectful, but they got in his face and told him that if they had to come back, they’d arrest everyone. I’ve been to house shows before, and the cops just come and warn you to lower the volume. Now the store owner is spooked enough that he canceled all of the shows planned through the summer. Any advice on what we can do about this situation?
–Heartless in the Dirt
Dear Dirty Heart:
Loud parties and bands in residential neighborhoods are always going to get a decent response. Normally, there are multiple complaints, and pissed-off neighbors trying to sleep can quickly turn into something much worse than just a loud party call. On the other hand, your record store scenario—in a business area, during business hours with no previous complaints—obviously didn’t merit the response. This tells me that something else might be afoot.
As SLUG readers have learned over the years, it’s not reasonable to think that the police exist or people become cops to close down record stores or respond to noise complaints. Or, especially, harass garage bands or touring bands. Coppers have much more important, exciting and serious things to do. Regardless, SLC noise ordinances are enforced because, long ago, the noiseless won out over the noisers. I could see them respond as you describe if the store didn’t get a noise permit, and it was late at night with nearby apartments or houses. That would obviously be a party or show designed to get a police response.
The best way to figure out why the store owner got “spooked” is to ask him if there are any other issues that would cause the police to react that way. Also, ask the cops. Every area of the city has a senior police officer, commonly called a C.O.P. or community services police officer. They would be able to tell you if there are any issues with the record shop and you can ask, “Why the rude response, officer?” Has the area around the store seen an increase in gang and drug traffic or violence? Detailed questions to this police officer could give you insight as to why what happened, happened.
Have a question for the cop? Email firstname.lastname@example.org