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Des Moines City Council rejects proposed noise ordinance for Lauridsen Amphitheater

The proposal would have required shows to end an hour earlier than they currently do.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines City Council had a busy evening for its April 18 meeting. They considered some controversial changes to noise ordinances around the Lauridsen Amphitheater, located in Des Moines' Water Works Park. 

Some residents had complained to the council about excess noise coming from the stage during concerts. Council members considered an ordinance intended to curb those complaints — amplified sound would have to end by 9 p.m. from Sundays to Thursdays, and by 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.

"As we're getting to the concert season, had some concerns, and I think that's where this particular item comes from," said Josh Mandelbaum, a third ward council member.

Tom Zmolek, the venue's manager, spoke to city council members at the meeting. He argued that those complaints from residents represent a minority of the feedback the venue receives.

"It's low numbers. For every seven people you have complain for a concert, we have 7,000 people there who have an increased lifestyle because of it," Zmolek said.

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He also said that multiple concerts from 2019 would've been canceled if this ordinance's restrictions had been in place back then and that approving changes now would likely force them to cancel shows.

"If you were to put this in place, it'd be very punitive to our main promoter. He has offers out there pending," Zmolek said.

After extensive debate, the council voted 5-2 to deny the ordinance changes, with Mandelbaum and Linda Westergaard in the minority. Opponents of the new ordinance argued that the restrictions would keep big-name artists from wanting to book shows in the city. Councilwoman Indira Shuemaker agreed, saying that she and many friends in her age group are used to traveling elsewhere to see shows.

"It's very exciting to me to hear that we have bands that want to come to Des Moines, because I haven't ever in my life been able to go to a concert in Des Moines. Maybe once or twice," Shuemaker said.

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