Sky Bar owner sues city of North Myrtle Beach over noise ordinance

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 10:44 AM EDT
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NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – A federal lawsuit has been filed against the city of North Myrtle Beach over its noise ordinance.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Carolina filed the lawsuit on Tuesday. It lists the plaintiff as Michael Moshoures, the owner of the Sky Bar. The defendants named in the case are the city of North Myrtle Beach, Mayor Marilyn Hatley and Police Chief Tommy Dennis.

The lawsuit claims the city’s noise ordinance is a violation of free speech, criminalizes protected speech and is “so vague that it promotes discriminatory enforcement.”

In October 2021, the city council voted to impose a maximum decibel level on “obscene, vulgar and/or profane lyrics” at businesses according to the time of day.

The ordinance states that obscene and vulgar music cannot be louder than 30 decibels between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and can’t be louder than 50 decibels from 7:01 a.m. to 10:59 p.m.

MORE INFORMATION | North Myrtle Beach noise ordinance

According to the lawsuit, 30 decibels is equivalent to leaves rustling.

The lawsuit argues that by prohibiting what they deem offensive music, even played at low volumes, the city of North Myrtle Beach has criminalized a large amount of protected speech.

“The Supreme Court has explained that ‘music is one of the oldest forms of human expression’ and has held that ‘the Constitution prohibits any . . . attempts’ to “censor musical compositions to serve the needs of the state,” according to the lawsuit.

Court documents also claim that Moshoures has received several warnings under the noise ordinance and has caused him to lose business.

“On more than one of those occasions, the police entered Sky Bar ‘like a SWAT team,’ forced the DJ to stop the music, and turn the lights on. Each time this occurs, Sky Bar loses customers and revenue,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the enforcement of the noise ordinance.

WMBF News asked the city of North Myrtle Beach about the lawsuit on Wednesday.

“We are aware a lawsuit has been filed, at this point no documents have been served. It is city policy to not comment on any pending litigation,” said North Myrtle Beach spokesperson Donald Graham.

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