DJ Darla Bea at the Biltmore Roaring 1920s New Year's Eve. | Credit: DJ Darla Bea

New Year’s Eve is typically one of the biggest party nights of the year, and now the party can go a little longer, with Santa Barbara making a small change to its noise ordinance that would allow amplified music until 1:30 on New Year’s morning.

The amendment was suggested by the City Council as a way to make it easier to handle the flood of permits each New Year and to more efficiently use law enforcement for more serious calls.

Assistant City Attorney John Doimas said during Tuesday’s council meeting that it was a “generally accepted custom to celebrate New Year’s late,” and that the idea was to make “less work” for the city’s emergency agencies who are working the busiest night of the year.

The city’s current noise ordinance says there can be no excessive or unreasonable noise — loudspeakers, amplified music, bands, or deejays that can be heard across property lines — from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

City staff acknowledged that events on New Year’s often extended past midnight, and according to the staff report, the change will allow for these events to continue “without technically being in violation of the law.”

Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez recounted his experience riding along with law enforcement on two past New Year’s nights, and said that his unit received calls “every couple minutes” regarding noise complaints, which diverted resources from other important emergencies.

“I can tell you,” Gutierrez said, “the amount of noise violation calls that they got took them away from more important things that were happening. If we extend the time, they are more likely to show up to a more serious call.”

Earlier versions of the amendment would have extended the window until 1 a.m., but Gutierez, who also sits on the city’s ordinance committee, suggested at an earlier hearing that they consider changing the time to 1:30 a.m. to keep in line with the accepted time for “last call” at all downtown bars.

The amendment was approved 6-1, with councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez voting in opposition, saying she was worried that allowing loud music later might bring unintended consequences that could overwhelm the already short-staffed emergency service agencies.

“Those conditions are going to exist,” said Mayor Randy Rowse, who voted in support of the change, “so I think by doing this we’ve saved ourselves some work, and maybe some angst for the enforcement agencies.”

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