By Maggie Lee

Warm spring breezes drifting through Buckhead invite open living room windows or dinner on the balcony for residents. For visitors, the neighborhood’s music scene shifts outdoors. Usually they exist in harmony. But when the decibels cause a disturbance, cops say call 911.

“Noise in Buckhead is about as old as Buckhead, but it really got out of hand last fall,” according to Spencer Roane, whose home is in a high-rise building that overlooks the blocks of restaurants and bars  around the intersection of Peachtree Street and Roswell Road.

He got even more frustrated when he tried to get answers from officials with the city of Atlanta about the noise and an outdoor event at the nearby Buckhead Saloon.  He eventually found, after months of correspondence, he said, that to run outdoor events and serve alcohol, it takes approval from two different city departments and navigating the different regulations for different permits.

And “invariably these things happen on Friday or Saturday night when everything [official] is closed,” Roane told a handful of neighbors and the three Atlanta police officers who came to meet the group on Apr. 8 and talk about how to fight illegal noise.

“Go ahead and call 911,” Atlanta Police Department Zone Two Commander Maj. Robert Browning said. “Just tell them you’ve got noise.”

There’s even a special police unit that goes into action on Friday and Saturday nights that a 911 dispatcher can send to handle permit violations.

“When we get complaints, we tell them to shut down,” said Browning.

But there are two sets of rules: One involves the noise ordinance; the other is the set of rules on a permit for a special event.

First, the police-enforced noise ordinance applies on a standard business day, no especially large crowd. In that case, after 9 p.m., bars and restaurants must keep patrons and bands in and around the building or on the deck and they can’t be loud enough to be heard 50 feet away.

But a so-called special event or festival allows more beats later into the night. To serve alcohol to such revelers requires a temporary permit from Atlanta police. But the permit for the special event itself  goes through the mayor’s office. A bar can get up to six of them a year, and they regulate outdoor gatherings of more than 75 people.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.