Walking the Line

In Buzz, November 2021 by Lauren Kruchten1 Comment

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The balancing act between fun and safety

Let’s make no bones about it. Glenwood South is Raleigh’s cash cow—the highest generator of our city’s prepared food and beverage tax. No one wants to stifle the scene… maybe just maximize middle-of-the-night silence and safety.

Making for that revenue, on any given Friday or Saturday night, Glenwood South is abuzz with swarms of people. And the later it gets, the more bustling the scene—think loud cars and motorcycles, intoxicated late-night bar-hoppers, and tunes serenading the happy revelry.

Sure, this is no doubt the norm in any popular urban entertainment district (looking at you, Nashville, Austin, Chicago, Manhattan, etc.), but, here, concerns have been mounting of late regarding our own nightlife district—especially as that revelry reaches into the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Earlier this year (from June 1 to Aug. 31) the Glenwood South District saw 94 noise complaints, 22 guns seized, 227 criminal charges and 56 reported assaults. These issues were enough to catch the attention of Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and Raleigh City Council, who remain on a mission to address concerns while also preserving that revenue stream (and fun).

Similarly, Nashville—aka “Music City” or “Nashvegas”—struggled with noise complaints in August 2019, specifically in regards to outdoor concerts and construction noises downtown. To help keep the loud noises in check, an ordinance in the Metro Code of Laws was passed that same month.

Over in “The Live Music Capital of the World” (aka Austin), the noise ordinance states: “A person may not make an unreasonable noise between the hours of 10:30pm and 7am, or create a sound or vibration more than 30 feet from a vehicle.” And, according to the official website of the City of Austin, anyone can call 311 to place a noise complaint with the Austin Police Department.

Currently, Glenwood South has an ordinance as well, but “you’re in violation of that noise ordinance in most places in Downtown without music even playing,” says Baldwin—“because there is noise. There’s street noise, conversation, vehicles. … So that’s the other thing we really have to look at: What is realistic in terms of a noise ordinance? How do we measure the decibels, and how do we communicate this to the bar owners and restaurant owners and work with them? We need to revisit that.”

Bates Battaglia, owner of Glenwood South’s popular Teets and Lucky B’s bars, says you have to expect that there’s going to be some noise Downtown—it’s part of the territory: “Go to any city, and that’s the case. It’s part of the evolution of the city. If you don’t like noise like that, then you shouldn’t be living Downtown.” Battaglia adds that in some of these other much larger cities, you wouldn’t even skip a beat over the current sound levels here.

That said, Baldwin and District D Council Member Stormie Forte are sensitive to all sides and are working to make business owners, patrons and residents of Glenwood South happy while also maintaining the thriving district’s vibrancy by trying to quash issues the area has seen recently before they happen. This includes parking enforcement and modifying parking requirements, increasing parking fines to prevent people from parking in areas that require residential permits, and having a greater police presence in the area—and helping implore nonresidents to exit the district once the bars close.

“What’s happening is people are going and parking in neighborhoods,” says Baldwin. “They will leave the club at 2am and go marching through the neighborhood. … If they’ve been drinking, they’re yelling, potentially they’re urinating on somebody’s lawn. Sometimes fights break out.” 

Adds Forte: “What we’re trying to do is look at the most balanced approach. On Friday and Saturday nights, you want to go out, have a drink and have a great time. And we understand that. But once bars close down, what we’re trying to do is put things in place to encourage folks to leave the corridor and not necessarily hang around—particularly when they start going into the residential areas because that’s where the bulk of the complaints are coming in.”

But Forte maintains that the residents who live in these surrounding communities are very supportive of the business community because they, like the council, want to see the businesses in a position to maintain their vibrancy, and they themselves enjoy being able to walk to Glenwood for dinner and drinks. 

Already, the Raleigh Police Department has increased patrols on Glenwood South and in the corridor to help prevent drug activity and folks with weapons, says Forte, as well as to help with safety at the bars themselves.

Madison Donnan, director of marketing for Bunch of Fives Hospitality Co. (umbrella co. for Milk Bar, Dogwood Bar & Eatery, Glenwood Social Club and other concepts), says that she feels great about the increased police presence at the bars. “It’s a lot on business owners to hire on security, and sometimes things are out of our hands,” she says. By having an off-duty officer at the door, it enables these establishments to enforce rules and remove anyone who isn’t abiding by them.

Battaglia is also on board with the increased police presence on Glenwood. “I agree that you could always use more police presence,” he says. “I mean that would be great just as an intimidation factor for people who want to act like idiots,” adding—“no matter where you are, there’s going to be plenty of idiots.”

You can’t argue with the fact that every city has people who are gonna act a fool occasionally (especially when under the influence), but that doesn’t mean they should ruin it for the bunch—and Glenwood South can continue to be a safe (and fun!) destination for all with the parameters that the City is putting in place. 

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