At about 7 a.m. on a recent Sunday, exotic, classic and many souped-up cars started filing into the Perimeter Mall parking lot. A low roar of rumbling could be heard throughout the parking lot, interspersed with several enthusiasts loudly gunning their engines.
This was the start of the gathering of the popular Caffeine & Octane car show, held the first Sunday of each month, from 8-11 a.m., at Perimeter Mall for nearly four years.
The show regularly attracts 2,000 vehicles. Some 10,000 car lovers from around the state and Southeast gather to show off or admire the vehicles that bring them pride and joy.
A short distance from the mall parking lot, the Manhattan high-rise condos can be seen standing tall. And it is there where some residents say the noise from the car show is becoming too much.
“On Sunday mornings, people like to sleep in, drink their coffee on their balcony … and now I can’t do that,” Rob Cullinane, a four-year resident of the Manhattan who lives on the 20th floor, said in an interview.
“You’d think living on the 20th floor I wouldn’t hear anything, but noise travels up,” he said. “This is a mall. No one signed up for this. It’s like we’re living at the Atlanta Motor Speedway,” he said.
Cullinane and another Manhattan resident recently spoke out against the loud engines at a June meeting of Dunwoody City Council. Perimeter Mall General Manager Bill Baker told the council the mall receives noise complaints from time to time and regular meetings are held between mall staff and Caffeine & Octane organizers to find ways to “reduce some of the irritations.”
The car show is a boon to the local hotel industry from out-of-towners visiting Dunwoody, he noted, and the event is a popular, family-friendly event. “However, it can get rather loud,” Baker acknowledged.
The Caffeine & Octane show now has its own TV show on the NBC Sports Network, attracting large crowds including hundreds of car enthusiasts from all over the USA and the world who come to Dunwoody to spend the entire weekend each month, according to show organizers.
The show is free to attend and is considered the largest car show in the country. The show is a part of High Octane Events, the producer and owner of several automotive related events as well as the producer and owner of Caffeine & Octane-The TV Series.
“NBC Universal is now distributing the TV show worldwide, so in addition to the 9 million viewers we had last season, we will be reaching millions of enthusiasts all around the globe,” Bruce Piefke, CEO of High Octane Events, said.
Dunwoody Police and event organizers say they try to limit the noise at Perimeter Mall. Several large banners hang throughout the parking lot that read, “Respect our neighbors. No loud revving” and “Be smart. No burnouts….”
The city’s noise ordinance also prohibits loud noises deemed a nuisance but does not directly address loud car engines.
Colby Sells, 16, of Snellville brought his red Camaro Iroc-Z parked in an area where dozens of other Camaros were on display. The hood was up as he revved the engine loudly. Very loudly.
When asked about the noise level at the car show, Sells responded simply, “Honestly, I think it can be louder.”
Dunwoody Police Sgt. Robert Parsons said the department receives the “occasional complaint” about loud noise from Caffeine & Octane.
“The event organizers have been very responsive and have asked attendees to keep their noise down several times,” Parsons said. “We have numerous Dunwoody Police officers at the event and have issued numerous warning, citations and even arrests from a range of charges to include laying drag [and] reckless driving.”
He said he did not know the total number of such citations.
Jeffrey Lorber, a photographer who was snapping photos of a neon green Dodge Viper, comes every month to the car show from Johns Creek. He acknowledged the show can be loud at times but complimented the staff and police for being “real strict” in making sure noise doesn’t rise too loud.
People come to Caffeine & Octane because they love cars, and part of the car is its engine, he said. As he talked a loud, beat-up truck drove down Ashford-Dunwoody Road. He said there are always loud car noises in the area.
Cullinane and some of his neighbors say they know they live in the busy Perimeter Center, but question holding a busy monthly car show in what is also a residential area. Besides the Manhattan, there are other apartments and condos in the area. There are also several hotels.
Car enthusiasts with loud cars also tend to stray from the parking lot as it fills up and cruise neighboring streets and gather in parking lots, including the Target parking lot next to the Manhattan, he said.
Caffeine & Octane is touted by the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau as a tourist destination that brings in hundreds of people to stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants and, after the car show ends at noon, perhaps shop at Perimeter Mall. City leaders consider the event an economic boon for the city.
Piefke, producer of Caffeine & Octane, said he and the organizers and participants “work very hard to be good neighbors and hate that anyone is upset.”
Ten to 12 off-duty Dunwoody Police officers are hired each month to maintain safety and the rules of the show which includes no revving of engines, he said. Anyone who violates the rules is banned from the show.
Piefke said Caffeine & Octane organizers encourage police to write tickets for any noise violations or traffic laws and remind their 150,000 fans on social media the importance of being respectful to their residential neighbors.
“We are doubling those efforts based on the recent concerns voiced by a few at this past council meeting,” he said.
“We can’t always control behavior outside our boundaries, but we work closely with the city and police department to make sure no laws or ordinances are being violated,” he said.
He said the recent complaints led him to meet with mall management to discuss additional noise abatement measures, including more signs.
Piefke also said show organizers are speaking to manager of the Target next to the Manhattan to see what can be done to ensure car show enthusiasts don’t gather in the parking lot with their loud engines.
“I grew up chasing cows on the Spruill farm, which is now the site of Perimeter Mall. Progress unfortunately brings change sometimes and not all of it is going to be positive,” Piefke said.
“We work hard to bring value to Dunwoody and all the fans of Caffeine & Octane each and every month but we do not take our responsibility to be good partners and neighbors lightly,” he said.
“We will continue to look at ways to keep the noise levels down.”