Manitoba

Loud music complaints about bars ignored in Exchange District, says resident

The city of Winnipeg says the current by-law on the books is enough to deal with noise complaints, but one Exchange District resident wants to see loud patios face the music.

Report says amending by-laws could hurt businesses, but John Giavedoni disagrees

A recent city report recommends against changing the current noise bylaws. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

John Giavedoni likes the vibrancy of his neighbourhood, but when the picture frames on a friend's walls started to shake from music playing more than a block away, that was too much. 

"Literally, pictures on their bedroom wall were vibrating from the bass — that loud," said Giavedoni.

Complaints from Giavedoni and other Exchange District residents prompted his area councillor, Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, to ask city staff to study the issue, including the possibility of amending Winnipeg's noise bylaw, but a recent report recommends no changes.

The existing noise bylaws are enough to deal with loud music on bar and restaurant patios, the city hall administrative report tabled April 10 says. The bylaw prohibits unreasonably loud or excessive sound that, among other things, disturbs the comfort of nearby residents or businesses.

But Giavedoni, executive director of community group Residents of the Exchange District, says the fact his friend with the rattling picture frames moved away proves existing bylaws are not good enough.

Music that loud coming from a garage in River Heights or Charleswood would be shut down immediately.- John Giavedoni

"Who do you call? The police, understandably, have bigger priorities. The Liquor and Gaming Authority, nothing happens," said Giavedoni, who has lived in the Exchange District for almost 10 years.

He and other Exchange District residents have been complaining about nightclub patio music during the summer months for years, he said.

"They phone Liquor and Gaming every week," he said. "Nothing is being done."

He thinks the Exchange gets treated differently because it doesn't look like a typical residential neighborhood.

"Music that loud coming from a garage in River Heights or Charleswood would be shut down immediately."

Amending noise bylaws would hurt business: city report

In early November last year, Pagtakhan called for a motion to study ways to stifle excessively loud music on bar and restaurant patios, including a possible bylaw amendment that would make loud music from a bar or restaurant between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. on weekends a bylaw violation. 

The current bylaw doesn't have set time guidelines for noise, but lays out factors that should be taken into account when deciding whether noise violates the bylaw, including the time and day of the week, the area and the event making the noise.

But amending the Neighbourhood Liveability bylaw could hurt businesses by restricting owners who comply with the bylaw, and wouldn't be enough to stop offenders, the city report suggests. 

Giavedoni wants to know what businesses the city thinks would be negatively affected by imposing a curfew on outdoor music. He suspects it's just a handful of nightclubs downtown and in the Exchange District that blast music outside in the summer months.

The report also suggests 311 operators be given scripts to direct people with noise complaints to the provincial Liquor and Gaming Authority (LGA). 

"The LGA is specifically more effective in addressing loud music emanating from licensed patios when that operation is impacting the surrounding community," the city report reads. 

Regulator working with the city

However, a LGA spokesperson said the regulatory body doesn't have as much sway as the city report suggests. 

"The Liquor and Gaming Control Act does not give the LGA the authority to investigate or address noise complaints."

Rather, the LGA recognizes that each municipality has the authority to set community standards through the by-law process, including standards for noise," the emailed statement reads. "As such, addressing noise complaints is a municipal responsibility."

Nobody's asking for them to close down … we love having that vibrancy in the neighborhood.- John  Giavedoni

Before the 2014 amalgamation of the previous provincial liquor and gaming authorities, which created the LGA, the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission did have the authority to directly address noise complaints at licensed establishments, the LGA spokesperson said.

"The LGA is occasionally drawn into noise complaints, because we work closely with licensees and so are sometimes well-positioned to help resolve these issues," the statement reads. "In these cases, we also work with municipalities and we make it clear to licensees that noise standards are set through municipal bylaws." 

The regulatory body is working with the City of Winnipeg to clarify the limits of its role, the spokesperson said.

The city plans to work with the LGA to possibly get repeat offender's liquor licenses revoked or penalize them in other ways, suggested Pagtakhan in a phone interview. He added he plans to keep working on the problem of patio noise, even though the city administration decided not to amend the by-law. 

Not against mixed use

Giavedoni said, despite his concerns, he still wants the neighborhood to continue being mixed-use. 

"Nobody's asking for them to close down," he said, referring to nightclubs, bars and restaurants. "We love having that vibrancy in the neighborhood." 

"But they have to be good neighbours," he said.

Giavedoni said the owners of the nightclub across the street from his condo, despite many changes over the last 10 years, have always been pleasant and they don't play loud music outside. 

"It's a huge difference if noise is inside, as opposed to outside," he said.

That's why he thought the proposed by-law amendment would have been a good compromise. Businesses could play music outside up to a certain time and area residents would be able to sleep after they stop, he said. 

Now that the city has decided not to amend the by-law, Giavedoni said he wants more accountability — a phone number he can call, 24 hours a day, to lodge his complaints and "someone to answer and take action." 

Pagtakhan suggested concerned area residents record the noise to help the city build a documented case against the offending businesses. And also wanted to assure residents he's not done working on this. He plans on looking for other ways to curb the problem.

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