Ordinance 123369 goes into effect today. Known better by the nickname it picked up over the summer, the “Meathead Ordinance” relates to conduct in public places and makes nighttime disturbances a civil infraction. If you act like a drunken buffoon in certain places on our streets between the hour of midnight and 5am, Seattle Police can write you a ticket. It’s a civil infraction, which in the food chain of law violations is less serious than a misdemeanor, but it’s a behavior-modifier that can improve what happens on our city streets after midnight
There are three distinct facets of the ordinance. In the early morning hours, it is now unlawful to:
- Make unreasonable noise. If you’re screaming, shouting, revving a motorcycle, or otherwise raising a ruckus that is audible from 75 feet away, you can be cited.
- Threaten another person. Talk smack in an effort to egg someone into a fight or verbally threaten harm or bodily injury to another person and you can be cited.
- Fight another person. Regardless if you’re “mutual belligerents,” it does take two to tango and the ordinance is meant to prevent injury to other people and property.
The Meathead Ordinance covers the downtown core as well as Pioneer Square, Belltown, Uptown, Capitol Hill, University District, and other commercially zoned areas. Mess up in public places like sidewalks, alleys, streets, entryways, and plazas and it’s a maximum $125 penalty.
While it’s certainly a public safety mitigation effort, the new ordinance also has an economic aspect to it. The Nightlife Advisory Board was created by the Council in 2007 with a specific role in providing guidance to the Council in matters of development and sustainability of the City’s music and nightlife industry. A viable, vibrant city has the nightlife to make it so, and most of us agree that acting civilly (whether under the influence or not) is a preferred aspect of vibrant, urban living. Bar or club owners are no longer responsible for the bad behavior of someone outside the club – it’s now on the shoulders of the individual acting like a meathead.