This article has been updated.

The City of San Antonio is starting a pilot program that would pay restaurants and bars for noise mitigation efforts aimed at reducing noise complaints from residential neighbors.

The program would require the business itself to fund at least 25% of the improvements, and submit a price quote for the work as well as an explanation of how the renovations would reduce noise. The business owner would then be eligible to apply for a grant to cover up to $7,500.

Covered improvements could include things like directional speakers, decibel meters, sound-absorbing panels and curtains, acoustic doors and windows, bass traps and enclosures for outdoor entertainment areas.

 San Antonio created a Noise Ordinance Task Force in 2021 to bring business owners and residents together and resolve persistent noise complaints in areas where residences are located close to entertainment businesses. As of late last year, the 15-member committee had made little progress.

Among its initiatives, however, was an audit of noise complaints received by the city between October 2021 and April 2022.

Ana Bradshaw, assistant director of the Economic Development Department, told members of the San Antonio City Council’s Economic and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday that the city received roughly 8,000 noise complaints in that span.

Of those, most of the repeat offenses came from businesses, which were not deterred by receiving citations. Citations range from $100 to $2,000.

“We know many of the businesses in this case wanted to be good neighbors, they wanted to collaborate with the neighborhoods, but there may be a gap that was preventing them,” Bradshaw said.

The grant program would be funded by $150,000 that City Council included in the city’s 2023 budget to help address noise complaints. The committee heard details and offered feedback Tuesday. Economic Development Department expects the application period to open in late March, with funds distributed mid-April through the end of May.

Councilman Mario Bravo (D1) told city staff that businesses in his district say the costs of real noise mitigation will be much higher than the city’s proposed grants.

“I think that we should, on the low end, make it at least $15,000 available” in grants from the city, said Bravo.

The program would be open to small businesses with a revenue threshold of less than $9 million per year. Only businesses that have been open in their current location for 12 months, with no outstanding noise violations, would be considered for the grants.

This article has been updated to show that applications for the pilot program will begin in late March. Results from the program will be presented to City Council later this year, but the council does not need to approve the pilot program, according to the Economic Development Department.

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.