BY JOHN MOYLE
Last week the urban phenomenon known as NIMBYism struck across Sydney as four iconic and much loved pubs were hit with complaints about noise.
The four pubs under the pump are the Royal Oak, The Moore Park View, The Marlborough and The Kings Cross Hotel, all well established hotels of a hundred years or more standing.
In all cases the complainants are recent arrivals in their areas.
Across NSW loud music and patron noise complaints from clubs, pubs and beer gardens are managed by the Office of Liquor, Racing and Gaming which states that “noise should not be heard inside any home between midnight and 7am on any night”.
Offensive Noise and Good Reputations
“The noise actually needs to be offensive, by nature of the volume, type of music or the time it is played,” John Green, NSW Director Liquor and Policing, AHA said.
“The idea a person can move in next to a pub that’s been part of the local culture since the 1800s and not only complain about the noise, but actually have some success in changing long-standing practices which impact many people should be a joke, but sadly the reality is that it’s often all too true.”
The 145 year-old Royal Oak in Double Bay is an independently owned hotel that has a reputation for great food and is one of two pubs in the suburb that residents refer to as a ‘local’.
For years patrons have been able to eat and drink at tables set outside on Bay Street until recently when noise complaints were made.
“Woollahra Council has received numerous noise complaints regarding the Royal Oak, and has sought to ensure the hotel complies with its existing planning consent, under which the use of the footpath area of Bay Street is limited to 10pm,” Spokesperson, Woollahra Council said.
Regular patron Jurgen Ryck said “It is unbalanced that it is two guys from the old Cosmopolitan who are complaining, while further down there are three places with outside tables and nobody complains.”
Last week loyal Royal Oak patrons were motivated to start a petition in support of the pub which has now reached several hundred signatures.
Complaints from near-by residents is about to cost the Moore Park View Hotel $500,000 in sound proofing after Liquor and Gaming NSW issued a warning notice.
The complainant Dino lives in a recently built apartment complex a few doors from the hotel.
Patron behaviour including singing, yelling and general arguing, along with vehicular noise were all issues in his formal complaint.
Licensee John Doble said that “the onus should also be on residents to ensure that they have done everything possible at their end as well.”
Five police inspections in 2018 did not find any notable compliance issues as the pub moves forward with its sound proofing solutions.
Part of the extensive Solotel group, Newtown’s 159 year old Marlborough Hotel has also been hit with complaints about noise emanating from its beer garden.
“The majority of the noise complaints are coming from apartments on Missenden Road and Susan Street, and this has been going on since I moved here a year ago,” Mitchell Rowe, Marly regular said.
The Kings Cross Hotel, another Solotel establishment, has been at the heart of the once thriving entertainment precinct for 107 years.
Six months ago a new apartment building, the Omnia, opened on the opposite corner.
The hotel recently received a noise complaint from an Omnia resident about its rooftop area, and the rumour was that it would be forced to close one of the best views in Sydney.
Nimby’s who have nothing to hide
“It is true that after an inspection from City staff at 1.50am, they (KX Hotel) have been asked to turn the music down, but the City has not ordered the hotel to close its rooftop bar,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore, City of Sydney said.
City of Sydney councillor Craig Chung said “The idea that someone can move next door to a long standing institution makes me mad.”
Cr Chung also questions the right for a City of Sydney compliance officer to find the complaint without any sound measuring equipment and throws the spotlight back onto the Omnia.
“We imposed conditions where they had to be insulated so that they don’t hear noise, so there is an ongoing investigation to see if the Omnia is compliant with its own DA,” Cr Chung said.
The Inner West has been aware of potential conflicts between venues and residents for some time.
In 2013 the old Leichhardt Council adopted a Good Neighbour policy to resolve disputed which included the convening of regular meetings between licensees and residents.
Inner West Council has also recognised the importance of the corner pub with a number of the area’s pubs now on a pub heritage register.
This time around the NIMBYs are on a hiding to nothing as in all cases the pubs have acted responsibly and are addressing the issues, while the complaints have highlighted the need to protect the rights of existing entertainment venues across the city, including the City of Sydney’s ‘Agent of Change’ policy.
“Once introduced, ‘agent of change’ will mean that new residential developments near existing entertainment venues need to be designed to manage the noise of the existing venue, while new entertainment venues are required to protect existing residential properties from the noise it makes,” Lord mayor Clover Moore said.
Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich said “ There is a role for the state in providing sustainable licensing conditions.”
Last year’s NSW Parliamentary inquiry into live music found that noise complaints were crippling live venues and recommended that the government provide grants of up to $25,000 to help venues to install sound proofing measures.
NSW Labor has made it an election issue with opposition leader Michael Daley wanting to establish a new class of license for venues and a single point for both venues and residents to air their complaints.
With a change of government at the next election and some deft legislation the day of the NIMBY may finally be over.