Posted on January 23, 2024

At Gallery Place, It’s Ted Leonsis vs. One Very Loud Street Music Act

Erik Wemple, Washington Post, January 18, 2024

Last month, Ted Leonsis reached a handshake agreement with Virginia officials to move the Capitals and Wizards teams from downtown Washington to Potomac Yard. If the deal goes through, the teams’ majority owner will get a new arena in a “world-class Entertainment District,” offices for his Monumental Sports & Entertainment and other goodies. He’d also get another perk often sought by folks who exit the District: a little peace and quiet.

For the past several years, Leonsis and his associates have been tormented by a sidewalk show at the mouth of Gallery Place Alley off 7th Street NW, alongside Capital One Arena. People who’ve frequented this bustling zone are familiar with the act, which consists of a man named David Halmon queuing up beats and singing along with his sidekicks, two boys who front the operation. All of this happens at earsplitting volume, courtesy of a pair of loudspeakers and an amplifier. The noise radiates into local homes, businesses and offices, including Monumental’s.

Monica Dixon, president of external affairs and chief administrative officer for Monumental, says the noise “never factored” into Monumental’s decision to explore a move to Virginia. But the conflict with Halmon’s act has earned mention in the coverage of Leonsis’s possible move, with The Post reporting that he was “particularly bothered by buskers, who played loud music outside his office.” Monumental’s objections are focused solely on Halmon’s performances, the company says, and are shared by neighbors, including residents of a condo building and a Clyde’s restaurant on the alley.


All the havoc has an adorable public face: Eleven-year-old J-Money, to use his stage name, has been rapping and singing for passersby on big nights for seven years, according to Halmon, who heads up the act. On a recent night, J-Money declined to give me his legal name, but he has appeared on local news since he was as young as 6.

On big nights around Capital One Arena, J-Money and his group perform for hours. {snip}

{snip} Clyde’s management says it can’t use portions of its dining area on certain nights and that patrons on numerous occasions have asked for discounted meals because of the din. A Monumental official reports the amplified music has been so loud that employees “on phone calls deep within the building could hear it — even those on the other end of those phone calls.”


{snip} In early December, Halmon was arrested near his performance spot and charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was tossed in jail for a couple of weeks, a period of welcome quiet, according to neighbors. Halmon pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug-possession charge and was sentenced to 90 days’ probation. As of late December, the shows had resumed their usual cadence.

Neighbors have sought relief from the city’s sound inspectors at the D.C. Department of Buildings, to little avail, they say. The reasons are multiple. An agency official notes in an email that violations of the noise ordinance are “extremely difficult” to prove because inspectors aren’t immediately available upon request and inspections are scheduled for normal business hours. High ambient noise levels at sites like Gallery Place — sometimes boosted by high winds — complicate enforcement efforts. Inspectors can’t request ID from a “noisy individual” and require assistance from D.C. police to do so; and First Amendment considerations might preclude enforcement actions. {snip}

In previous legislative sessions, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has proposed legislation to facilitate noise enforcement — including a provision to outlaw amplified music audible from 100 feet — though he says objections from the #DontMuteDC coalition have been instrumental in blocking such efforts. Those objections are steeped in racial politics stemming from the city’s go-go tradition and in the coalition’s commitment to promoting that cultural heritage in public spaces around town. Ron Moten, co-founder of #DontMuteDC, says people who settle downtown should be prepared for downtown life. “Ted does things the way rich White men do it — they come in and use money and say, ‘Get the hell out of here,’” Moten says.