A cancelled court appearance on Monday may have temporarily paused the pitched battle between noise-averse Saint John condo-dwellers and fans of live music.

Concert promoter Peter Rowan was hit with a $200 ticket for "permitting noise that disturbs others" after a concert in late October at Taco Pica restaurant.

But when Rowan and a group of supporters arrived for their Dec. 5 court date, they were told while charges had been filed, none were ultimately laid because of a "conflict" in how the offence was perceived.

Police "didn't really think the court was the proper avenue for this charge at this time," Rowan said.

Keeping the peace

Rowan and business partner Abigail Smith were instructed to advise police when they planned to host live music, and asked to "continue to do what we already do, which is manage the venue, be conscious of the sound that bleeds out, and the times that we're having the shows," Rowan said.

Concert organizers have already attempted to curb the complaints by organizing a fundraiser for improved soundproofing at Taco Pica — an event that raised $3,000. Shows on weeknights have an 11 p.m. cutoff time, and signs placed in the venue ask attendees to avoid opening the door while sets are in progress.

"The venue has a good record in terms of what they do, and Santos is a respected member of the community," said Rowan.

Taco Pica

Taco Pica has become a popular location for diverse and loud genres, but not everyone is happy about it. (Matthew Bingley/CBC )

Battle with 'one resident'

The noise complaints stem from a single resident of a nearby condo development, Rowan said. In his opinion, the complainant has been unwilling to compromise with the musicians who have been performing at Taco Pica for years.

"My dialogue with this person has literally been them yelling at me across the street and giving me the finger," Rowan said. "We would be happy to sit down with them and figure out what's fair usage and come to an agreement.

"If we can all come to an agreement, then we'll stick with it."

abigail smith peter rowan quality block party

Abigail Smith, left, and Peter Rowan, right. “We got some attention because of the complaint, which was helpful, but now it’s time for the real work,” Smith said. “It’s a bylaw and zoning issue, and even though [the outcome] isn’t very exciting now the real work can be done.” (Ben Silcox/CBC)

He said noise complaints are actually a good problem to have in a city desperate to attract people

"This is a good news story because there's people living uptown and trying to do stuff uptown," he said. "We just need to find some common ground."

Rowan said he "wasn't surprised" no charges were laid considering the vagueness of the city's noise bylaws. 

"We still don't know what's too loud," he said. "There are no time guidelines in the bylaws, there's no decibel level. If someone feels like they're disturbed they can call in a complaint. It's still an arbitrary decision."

All-ages

Young folks hang out beside Taco Pica, an all-ages venue, during the April instalment of Saint John indie music festival Quality Block Party. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Police 'don't want to be there'

The ultimate goal is to continue to host live music uptown without involving police, who Rowan said "don't want to be there, either."

"We're not the only ones — there are a lot of people who are attempting to do music and arts events that are impacted by this," said Rowan. "This is not something that can be ignored if you're trying to encourage people to live and work uptown." 

'This is a good news story because there's people living uptown and trying to do stuff uptown. We just need to find some common ground.'
- Peter Rowan, concert promoter 

Abigail Smith agreed.

"We got some attention because of the complaint, which was helpful, but now it's time for the real work," she said. "It's a bylaw and zoning issue, and even though [the outcome] isn't very exciting now the real work can be done."

She pointed to the success of cities like Nashville, or Berlin, which have been built thriving communities and tourism brands around a culture of  live music. "We can apply some of those same principles here," she said.

"When people enjoy a space, they create revenue and put it back in the city."