Apr 3, 2023 - News

San Antonio pauses noise ordinance work after tensions flared

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Nearly two years into clashes, controversies and concerns about the future of local nightlife, a group of bar owners and neighborhood leaders still don't agree on how — or whether — to reform San Antonio's noise regulations.

Driving the news: The city put the working group on pause while staff looks to a new grant program for solutions, Michael Shannon, director of the city's Development Services Department, tells Axios.

  • San Antonio last week launched applications for grants to help local business owners cover the cost of soundproofing. Applications are open through April 14.

Why it matters: With a growing population and increasing urban development, San Antonio is seeing more bars in close proximity to neighborhoods. It has led some residents to complain about losing sleep due to loud music late into the night.

  • It also presents a challenge for city leaders who want San Antonio to strengthen its cultural vibrancy while still responding to neighbors' concerns.

Catch up fast: Council members created the task force to recommend changes to the city's noise ordinance, which determines how loud neighbors can be within certain areas and timeframes. They also planned to look at how the city could better enforce the existing rules.

  • The group last met in October, when members discussed a consultant's report that suggested requiring permits for outdoor music, among other regulations.
  • Tensions escalated. Bar and club owners blasted the report, saying it would put them out of business. Residents wanted to move forward with the recommendations.

By the numbers: Over a six-month pilot program last year, officials fielded 8,400 noise complaint calls and issued 155 citations in response, per KSAT.

What they're saying: "We are presently in failure mode," John Doski, task force member and King William homeowner, tells Axios.

  • Still, he supports the upcoming grant program and thinks the pause is necessary.
  • "Having a meeting and not being able to do something — coming out nonproductive — gets old," he says.
  • "The division was pretty loud there at the end," Shannon tells Axios. "I don't think we were able to get any consensus."

The other side: Business owners feel threatened, Tim McDiarmid, owner of The Good Kind in Southtown, tells Axios. McDiarmid worries the task force didn't represent diverse views or parts of the city.

  • "It's unfortunate that if anything, the divide became greater," McDiarmid tells Axios. "In order for anything beneficial to happen, the whole thing would have to start over again."

Context: Business owners have said they're still recovering from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, and it isn't the right time to introduce new restrictions. Many have also complained about city construction projects keeping customers away.

Details: District 1 Councilmember Mario Bravo, who represents areas with some of the most noise complaint calls, proposed the $150,000 grant program. He didn't see agreement among the task force and wanted other options.

  • About 20 businesses could receive up to $7,500 each to add sound-absorbing panels, bass traps, directional speakers or other equipment.

Yes, but: Soundproofing measures are expensive, and $7,500 may only go so far.

  • "My big fear is that we have 20 projects that fail, as opposed to having five that are successful," Bravo tells Axios.

What's next: The city might reconvene the task force once officials have studied the impact of the grants on noise complaint calls, Shannon says.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Antonio.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More San Antonio stories

No stories could be found

San Antoniopostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Antonio.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more