A dance party in Warrnambool’s CBD on Sunday sparked dozens of noise complaints to the police, prompting the city council to suspend the permit for the event.
By late Wednesday, the council had also cancelled Friday night’s usual Laneway Bar event which was to feature two local acoustic musicians.
Laneway Bar proprietor Patrick O’Brien apologised to residents over the popular Coastal Jam event which spilled out into the car park to cater for the crowd of 500.
The speakers were just 10 to 15 metres from Heatherlie Homes where the average age of the residents is 80, many of them aged in their 90s.
Decibel readings taken by a CBD resident with sound tech experience were as high as 96.7, and council acknowledged the Environmental Protection Authority noise guidelines had been breached.
Police, city councillors and staff were called to the event, which was to run from 2pm until about 11pm.
Mr O’Brien said after being told about 10pm of the complaints that had come from a number of different agencies, he shut the event down straight away.
“We actually cancelled the event,” he said. “We missed the mark on a couple of different things in terms of sound and scheduling.”
Heatherlie Homes executive officer of finance and administration Kathy Snell said despite having double-glazed windows and double brick walls, the noise was so loud residents’ furniture and pictures hanging on the walls were rattling. “The bass was so low that it was vibrating everything, vibrating in their bodies,” she said.
Executive officer of governance and residential services Lyn Burns said the residents weren’t able to have a conversation with each other in their own homes.
“If they turn the telly up they still can’t hear it over the noise,” she said.
A number of the residents left their homes to escape the noise, some finding alternative accommodation for the night so they could sleep.
They said residents dread the laneway events, and Heatherlie Homes had complained in previous years. However, Mrs Burns said this year they hadn’t been quite as bad as last year but Sunday’s event “was too much”.
Mrs Snell said some residents have had special earplugs made so they can block out the noise.
While organisers praised the behavior of Sunday’s crowd inside the fenced-off venue, Mrs Burns said residents were upset to witness people urinating and vomiting in the car park.
Heatherlie Homes said the council should have consulted them before approving the event. And, despite a meeting between Heatherlie, police, council and operators about the laneway bars after they were approved, Mrs Snell said they weren’t made fully aware of the exact nature of Sunday’s event.
Sergeant David McDonald said a licence premises incident is likely to be submitted in relation to the event.
In a statement, manager of visitor economy David McMahon said the council was disappointed the organisers of the Coastal Jam event had not adhered to the conditions under which the event was endorsed.
Environment Protection Authority regulations in relation to noise were breached and the council received a number of complaints from residents and business owners about the noise levels and some behaviour, he said.
After investigating the issue, the council said it would not endorse Coastal Jam being held at this location in the future.
Mr McMahon said that because of compliance concerns and the breach of event conditions on Sunday, the council had withdrawn support for Friday’s The Laneway Bar event
However, he said other Laneway Bar events scheduled for later this month would be considered.
He said the council regretted the impact the event has had on neighbouring residents and businesses.
“Although events are important to Warrnambool and help drive the city’s economy, it is important that they don’t unreasonably impact on residential amenity,” Mr McMahon said.
“Some may be disappointed about this Friday’s Laneway Bar being cancelled, however the council has an obligation to the community to ensure the amenity and public space is managed respectively for all of the community.”
Coastal Jam, a touring festival, is run out of Geelong and used the Laneway Bar to run in Warrnambool for the first time.
“I run the bar and we got approval thorough council and police to use the back car park as well to facilitate some more patrons, and they (Coastal Jam) come down and sort out all the sound and lighting. They sort out the acts,” Mr O’Brien said.
He said the event was a huge success with people coming from all over Victoria, and Liebig Street was so busy a number of traders had sold out of food.
He said he had a lot to learn from the event.
“There was good and bad, and obviously the bad was the noise,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said he hoped to potentially bring the event, or something like it, back to Warrnambool next year but in a different location.
“We need to go back to the drawing board to make sure the event is good for us, but also good for the community as a whole,” he said.