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19 January 2014 @ 02:39 pm
You can't have a dance club in a residential zone. Sorry.  
When I got to work yesterday evening, I felt as if something was already off. I thought perhaps I was off-kilter because I'd been thrown off my usual routine. I was working an evening shift instead of my usual morning one, and the parking spaces in front of the Clubhouse were full so my car was left in the side lot, which is small and tight and I'm always nervous about parking in it.

I got to the office and to my surprise, a sign was affixed to the door announcing the office was closed for lunch. I was really surprised that my coworker had already taken off for the day, because an evening party (henceforth the Kali party) was setting up and usually it's better to have someone around when that happens. But I shrugged and went inside. After all, there'd been a party that morning (the Chen party) and perhaps she hadn't had a chance to take her lunch on time.

On the front desk, she'd left a photocopy of a calendar for February with her shifts penciled in. That seemed more than a little presumptuous to me; I'm the one who makes the schedule, not the other way 'round! She's only a temp, after all. More frustrating was the fact that she had not left any other paperwork behind, like the pre-party checklist that we're supposed to complete before every event. After poking around, I found that she'd failed to charge the Chen party for event insurance and did not fill out their pre- and post-party checklists. But at least she managed to collect payment from them.

I noticed a cardboard box sitting on the front desk by our outgoing mailbox. I had initially assumed it was a package, intended to go out with Tuesday's mail, but I took a closer look and realized it was one of those “signature required” packages from a courier service. The name and address on the box was that of a resident, not the office. For some reason, my coworker had signed for it, which is something we strictly cannot do because of potential liability issues. Surely common sense dictates that we can't accept packages that are not addressed to us? Worse, she'd put a small note on the box that said she could not locate the resident's file so she had not contacted them. Great! We have this potentially time-sensitive box sitting in the office and its proper recipient has no idea that it's here. I looked up the address and left a voicemail for the resident, but at this point I was a wee bit annoyed.

I wanted to call my coworker and ask when the Kali party began set-up, but I have neither a phone number nor e-mail address for her. So I decided to start charging them from 5:00 pm, since caterers were at work in the kitchen and a DJ was setting up his equipment when I walked in the door.

I went out into the main Clubhouse room to find the hostess because I had a few questions. As I talked to her, it became clear that she had not read the contract very carefully, because she had no idea that she had to pay for event insurance. After I told her that the estimate for the insurance was about $100, she complained that she shouldn't have to pay for it because my boss had not mentioned the insurance when she'd initially booked the party. I told her a polite version of “Hey, it's not my fault you didn't read the contract, it's printed right here in bold lettering.” She reluctantly agreed to pay for the insurance, so I went back to the office to get that paperwork in order. One more thing my coworker should have done before she left, but whatever.

Around 6:30ish, the DJ was testing his music and it was really loud.  I got a call from "Anonymous Resident" (She always calls to complain anonymously, but her calls are so frequent that by now I know exactly who she is) who said that it was too loud and the bass was shaking the walls of her home.  When I came out of the office after talking to her, George the Front Gate Guy was coming in to talk to the DJ, too. It turns out that he could hear the music from his post, up at the front of the complex. He told the DJ the music had to be turned WAY down or we might have to shut it off. He was perhaps not as diplomatic as I would have been, but I'd say he was brusque rather than rude. Nevertheless, the DJ seemed very upset. After George went back out to the front gate, I could hear the DJ muttering to some other guys in Hindi (or whichever Indian dialect they were speaking).

When the party kicked off an hour or two later, the music was still pretty loud. The bass was making the walls of my office shake. I went outside to check the volume, but the music was just at the border of acceptable.  (You could hear it when standing on the patio, but not at the edge of the bocce court. If the music can be heard from beyond the bocce court, then it can definitely be heard from the nearby residences, so at that point it's too loud.) But as part of the festivities they brought out some big ol' drums and started pounding away on them. That was obnoxious. In the office, the drum-banging was giving me a headache, and I guess I wasn't the only one. George came back up and said he'd gotten a call from the local police department. The officer on the phone said that he'd received three noise complaints and he'd send out a car if we didn't “monitor the situation” better. So I went into the darkened Clubhouse, to the edge of the dance floor, and tried to locate the hostess amongst the blasting noise and flashing lights. I pulled her out and brought her to George, who quickly apprised her of the situation. She and one of her friends (co-hostess?) decided that they could stop using the drums and turn the volume down a bit.

It was still pretty noisy, though. As long as they kept the doors closed, the sound level was OK, but guests and caterers kept leaving the patio doors open, so every 10-15 minutes I'd go out and walk around the perimeter of the Clubhouse closing any open doors to try to keep the party from disturbing nearby houses. George was really worried that the cops would come out, so we approached the hostess again, and this time her husband stepped in to talk to us. He said that the music was as low as they could make it, so I told him to make sure that those doors stayed close and we would (fingers crossed!) be fine. The Kali host said they'd do it, but I kept popping out and the doors were still open as often as not. Le sigh. The cops never came, thank goodness. That would have just been embarrassing for pretty much everyone involved – the party hosts, RHA, our security company – plus the cops would pull the plug on the music and then NOBODY would be worried about noise levels anymore.

Around 10:30pm "Anonymous" called back again to request that the bass be turned down; she said that the volume was fine but the bass was still making her house vibrate.  I went out and spoke to the DJ and he turned turned some dials on his switchboard, which helped. The party was nearly over, anyway; the music was shut off about forty minutes later.

Oddly, “Anonymous”'s calls were the only ones I got all evening. I guess the other residents bothered by the noise went straight to the police.  Fine by me.

The party wrapped up and they finished cleaning up around midnight, but when it came to settling the bill it was one problem after another. They didn't like the insurance charge, but I had already discussed it with them at the beginning of the party so they knew it was coming. They claimed that they'd been told they got one hour of clean-up time for free; I told them this wasn't true and had never been part of how we do things.  I kept pointing them to this line in the contract:

The amount charged will be determined from the time set-up begins until clean-up is completed and the last guests have left the premises

But they kept claiming "Oh, [my boss] told us this" and "[My boss] said we didn't have to pay for that!"  I knew it wasn't true, and in the end I got the check from them, but I expect them to call and complain on Monday.

Some of their complaints were semi-valid, I suppose. They claimed they'd asked three times and been told yes, they could have a DJ. I answered that DJs are certainly allowed, but the Clubhouse is still located in the heart of a residential neighborhood so the music can't be at a “club” level. They booked the venue with the intention of using the outdoor patio, but the fact that they had to keep the doors closed ruined this plan. Again, if they'd lowered the music volume they could have had both, but if they want loud dance music the doors have to stay closed. Ultimately, our Clubhouse was really the wrong venue for the type of party they wanted.

All events booked at the Clubhouse have to have a resident host. I think what made this party even worse than usual was the fact that the resident “hosting” the party was completely MIA all night long. If she had been around, I could have warned her that the HOA might fine her if we got enough noise complaints, but the hosts of the party didn't live in the complex so what did they care? It made it that much harder to get them to rein in their excess noise.

It's been a while since I had to work a really raucous party, and I was really grateful that George was willing to get right up in the host's face about the noise. He wasn't rude about it, just blunt and brutally honest, which I think was important since there was no other way that he could get the point across to this group. I told him that if they dared to complain, that I'd definitely tell my boss that he'd been firm, but polite – just what a guy in his position should be. His professional approach to the job was the one good thing about tonight's party.