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Testifying at City Council to Stop Bounty Hunter Noise Summonses

October 17, 2023

The NYC Hospitality Alliance team (Andrew Rigie, Executive Director, and Counsel Robert and Max Bookman), along with bar and restaurant members testified at a City Council hearing we advocated for on legislation to stop self-interested bounty hunters from getting rich on the backs on small businesses by exploiting the law, clogging the courts, and making a mockery of our legal system.

These bounty hunters are misusing a 50-year-old well-intentioned citizen complaint law to tag small businesses with several millions of dollars in fines based on bogus noise complaints. According to recent reporting by the New York Post, roughly 95% of these summonses have been issued by just two people who are making a business of this. The total value of these summonses exceeds $2.4 million, coming straight from the pockets of local bars and restaurants.  

Make no mistake, these noise summonses are frivolous. A business can only be found guilty if it is found to be using a "sound reproduction device" for "commercial" or "business advertising purposes or for the purpose of attracting attention to any performance, show, sale or display of merchandise, in connection with any commercial or business enterprise" and is heard "outside or in front of any building, place or premises." This old law is designed to stem boisterous advertising outside of clothing and electronic stores - not open the door to the bad old days of enforcement against bars and restaurants based on subjective notions of sound volume. When the current noise code was adopted 20 years ago a new section creating objective criteria for bar and restaurant noise violations based on decibel levels was placed in the law for a reason. Nothing can be more frivolous than issuing a summons under an incorrect section of the law.

This is why the NYC Hospitality Alliance has led the charge to clarify the law in a way that would put an end to the unacceptable abuse that far too many law-abiding bar and restaurant owners have been subject to by a tiny group of self-interested bounty hunters. You may CLICK HERE to read the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s testimony from today’s hearing. 

We commend Councilmembers Gennaro and Holden for introducing this common-sense legislation, and we urge the City Council to pass it ASAP and for Mayor Adams to sign it into law. Councilmember Gennaro made it clear he wanted this abuse to stop now and we were pleased the Department of Environmental Protection agreed that the law is being abused by a couple of bounty hunters and must be stopped.