One of the live music’s scenes recurring issues reared its ugly head again yesterday, when noise complaints threatened the operation of an inner-city Melbourne live music venue.
The Bendigo Hotel, located in Johnston Street in Collingwood, had come under attack from City of Yarra council and licensing authorities, triggered by complaints from a neighbouring resident over the venue’s 300 capacity band room, which hosts live music four days a week with a 3am license.
The venue’s owner, Guy Palermo, had yesterday reported how the complaints of a single resident had been targeting the venue with excessive volume complaints since moving into the area in March, and were forcing the venue into a costly court battle over the issue, with a VCAT hearing that was scheduled to take place later today.
Palermo, who says he’s spent $10,000 on soundproofing for the venue and regularly tested sound levels to satisfy noise and licensing conditions, said that he’d attempted negotiations with the anonymous resident, but that “he refuses to meet up with me,” Palermo says.
“In four years, this is the only time I’ve had a complaint. Once his lease ends, I’m sure he will be gone, leaving me out of pocket thousands of dollars. It is possible he may cause the end of live music at The Bendigo after 100 years of the hotel’s operation.” “I was really angry with the council bureaucrats because they’d rushed to VCAT… without any discussion.”
The venue’s plight swiftly went viral on social media yesterday afternoon, with local residents and supporters of live music throwing their support behind the embattled venue over the dispute, while a petition addressed to the City of Yarra to protect the venue that sprang up at Change.org has over 9,000 signatures in just 48 hours.
The plight eventually reached the attention of City of Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly, who yesterday afternoon quickly called a last-ditch crisis meeting between Guy Palermo and local council in an effort to avoid the venue – located just a block from Collingwood’s The Tote – from entering a costly legal battle that could cost Palermo up to $25,000 in fees, according to the Age.
Speaking to 3AW radio this morning, Cr Jolly explains that he swooped in to the venue’s defence after learning of the VCAT hearing via social media.
“I was really angry with the council bureaucrats because they’d rushed to VCAT,” explains Jolly, “taking the Bendigo Hotel and putting it at risk of closure without telling any of the councillors, without any discussion within the organisation. I learned about it via Facebook and phone calls from irate supporters of live music in Melbourne – as they should [be].”
In the late-minute meeting held yesterday afternoon, Cr Jolly played mediator between Mr Palermo (who “came with a good attitude”) and Yarra City councillors who disputed the venue owner’s claims that it was a single resident spearheading the noise complaints.
Mayor Jackie Fristacky told media yesterday that there had been 14 noise complaints – from more than one resident – between June and October, that were in breach of EPA noise guidelines for Victoria. “Officers have been in regular contact with the hotel to achieve a solution but unfortunately one has not been reached,” said Mayor Fristacky. “The vast majority people who live next to pubs in the inner-city expect to have noise.”
Cr Jolly explains that the breaches were due to ‘guest bands’ using their own live equipment that did not satisfy the sound levels that Palermo says he so diligently checked. “The issue was, when [The Bendigo Hotel] used their own equipment they kept to sound levels,” Jolly told 3AW, “but when other bands came in with their own equipment they sometimes went a bit over the top – so it’s easily fixed.”
By the close of the meeting, an ‘interim’ solution between venue and council had been reached, meaning that today’s scheduled VCAT hearing has been postponed, with further mediation planned between The Bendigo Hotel and City of Yarra council.
Guy Palermo took to the venue’s Facebook page to deliver the good news, posting: “The meeting went well thanks to Stephen Jolly & Simon Huggins; those 2 legends have made it possible for the VCAT hearing to be stopped.”
When questioned about his ‘white knight’ actions on 3AW, Cr Jolly responded that live music venues shouldn’t be given a “free ticket” but that equally, residents should respect the “plusses and minuses” of living near live music venues in the inner-city, and that “the vast majority people who live next to pubs in the inner-city expect to have noise.”
In reference to an image that was doing the rounds yesterday – of a notice posted to a For Sale sign behind the Retreat Hotel in Brunswick (see below) – Cr Jolly reinforced that the call for prospective residents to “respect the lay of the land” was “fair enough.”
Citizens of Brunswick, I salute you! Taped to a For Sale sign behind the Retreat Hotel. x pic.twitter.com/pw4Ro11JTa
— Marieke Hardy (@mariekehardy) November 25, 2013