Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
If you choose to live above a noisy bar but hate noise, is cutting its cable feed to tone things down OK?
Last night, during the Monday Night Football matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington football team, things got heated. They always do: This is the most storied rivalry in all sports history, after all. Fans of America's Team watching the game live at AT&T Stadium were stunned into silence when Tony Romo suffered a back injury in the third quarter. At the Washington, D.C., bar where I was watching the game, Washington fans (who are all, as a rule, unhealthily obsessed with Romo) roared that much louder, further encouraged by a passable performance from former Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy.
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the score tied up, folks watching the game with me at the Drafting Table were anxious and shout-y (and a bit inebriated). That's when things exploded. Not when time expired after the two-minute warning—but when residents upstairs pulled the plug on the satellite feed.
"We love most of the neighbors up there," says Drafting Table general manager Malachi Broadnax. "I don’t want to be calling out the neighbors that live above us for the actions of only a few."
The satellite feed supplying crucial football action cut out at a dramatic point in the game. Chaos gathered as fans rushed to their waitresses with credit cards, antsy to get to another bar. Some people appeared to run out without settling their tabs.
It might've been worse had Broadnax not been on hand. Calmly and professionally, he explained that neighbors living in the condo building above the bar had cut the feed and that it wouldn't be restored. He soothed frayed nerves, offering a free restorative shot for fans paying their bills. He was so cool and collected, it was almost as if he'd dealt with this situation before.
Had he? One other time, he tells me: during the World Cup.
The Drafting Table bills itself as an "architectural gastropub" in D.C.'s Logan Circle, a tony neighborhood that is home to many of the District's newest and fanciest restaurants. Despite its architectural pretensions, the Drafting Table is homey neighborhood pub—not a dive, but also not a small-plates bistro like many of the other restaurants that line 14th Street NW.
And at about 11:30 at night, someone (or someones) who lives above this comfortable, 80-seat sports tavern became so enraged by the noise that he or she (or they) actually physically climbed onto the roof to mess with the bar's satellite dish.
The bar has already filed a criminal complaint. In addition, the Drafting Table is filing an insurance claim for lost sales. (As someone who ordered another drink at the next bar where I watched the most important game of the year go into overtime, I can testify: Those lost sales were real.) Add the costs to the deductible, and the damages might easily exceed $1,000—making it a felony charge of vandalism.
"We’re going to do what we can," says Broadnax, who won't tell me anything about what happened beyond what I saw from the barstool. "We’ve talked to the building about footing the bill for putting cameras up there if anything like this happened again."
Could this be the work of some rando who managed his way up onto the roof? A crazed Eagles fan, perhaps? Not possible. "It is very, very hard for anyone to get up on the roof," the manager says. It would require secure access available only to residents. "Our satellite is even in a less accessible place, so you would have to have knowledge of the upstairs of the building to find the satellite. It’s not anywhere in plain sight."
So does the Drafting Table know which neighbor keeps cutting the feeds when the games matter most? "I have a pretty good idea," Broadnax tells me. But he is quick to point out that almost all of the upstairs residents are friends of the bar. They eat meals there and watch sports there and root for teams there—loudly at times.
Those sympathetic neighbors could wind up getting punished for the actions of the few who will go to any length to stop noise: Broadnax says that the cost for adding cameras or paying for damages could hit every resident of the building, in the form of maintenance fees.
"If you can’t find out who’s doing it, and no one’s going to say anything, it kind of makes sense," he says.
What doesn't make sense is climbing to the roof of a building, sabotaging a satellite dish, and incurring repair costs for all of your neighbors. (Or buying a condo on one of the busiest nightlife corridors in the entire city and then freaking out about noise, for that matter.)
Nonsensical—but criminal? When I put that question to Gwendolyn Crump, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department, she didn't sound certain, although she lacked all of the details. "We have no idea what occurred," she writes over email. "No, this is not a crime."
Carry on, devious vandals? Maybe D.C. police are all Giants fans?