Local venues blame 'ridiculous' noise restrictions for threatening live music scene

Music venues in the heart of Mandurah have called on the local and state governments to help them revitalise the city's entertainment scene by loosening "ridiculous" laws on noise restrictions.

Business owners involved in the hospitality industry have spoken out about the tough regulations preventing them from hosting live music shows and therefore threatening the vibrant arts and culture scene.

The Mandurah Mail has recently highlighted how the Peel region's live music scene has been left gasping for breath after Rollercoaster club closed its doors and noise complaints from neighbouring residential developments increased.

Conversation about how to encourage entertainment growth in the city centre has included plans to build a dedicated live music venue and relaxing noise restrictions.

Described by the City of Mandurah as "extremely onerous", the State Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997 that control local venues are set by the state government and monitored by local council.

We are not allowed any live music after 10pm every night and no drums at any time.

The Bridge Garden Bar owner and manager Brittney Hutchen

Mandurah musician and event organiser Dave Feenstra said easing tough regulations would allow for more local live music.

Mr Feenstra said the "ridiculous" rules were destroying the local live music scene for artists and audiences.

"I've had venues receive noise complaints for a solo acoustic act at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon … it shuts us down," he said.

"Back in the day, the Brighton and the Peninsula would have bands on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and a band for a Sunday session as well.

"Now, it has just changed the entire landscape - the existing venues will only cater to a solo acoustic act now and even that is so hard for the venues."

The Bridge Garden Bar owner and manager Brittney Hutchen agreed, adding that the restrictions have negatively affected the business' everyday trading and lost them a number of potential special events and functions.

Since taking over the business in 2017, Ms Hutchen said they inherited strict noise restrictions from the previous owners, who were fined a number of times for breaching the rules.

"We are not allowed any live music after 10pm every night and no drums at any time," she said.

"Even on Friday nights, we cannot go beyond 10pm and the effect of not continuing the music longer is that our venue empties out and guests either move on to another venue or go home.

"We have lost a lot of our function trade especially weddings, engagement parties and milestone events as most guests want DJs but with the 10pm cut off time, they say it is way too early which is understandable."

If things are a bit more relaxed, it would absolutely improve the live music scene.

Mandurah musician and event organiser Dave Feenstra

As potential facilitators of an improved arts and culture landscape in the region, both Mr Feenstra and Ms Hutchen have called on local and state governments to review current legislation and relax the rules on weekends.

"We would like to see our license for noise extended to say 11.30pm on Friday and Saturday evenings and have allowances for extra events such as public holidays," Ms Hutchen said.

"We would also like to see the 'no drums at anytime' rule removed so that we can have a little more flexibility attracting and showcasing more local acts."

Mr Feenstra said it would also be helpful to get more assistance from the Environmental Health department.

"We need to have a much better system with noise complaints and how they're dealt with," he said.

"I'd like council to handle it a bit better, a bit more personally rather than it being so authoritarian ​- if things are a bit more relaxed, it would absolutely improve the live music scene."

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The state government recently announced a reconfiguration of noise regulations to create a 'special control area' in Northbridge to protect pubs, clubs and live music venues from overly strict rules.

In an effort to throw their support behind local venues, the City of Mandurah lodged a submission with the Department of Environment recommending that an exclusion zone also be considered for Mandurah. 

However during the recent reviews to the regulations, the city's request was overlooked.

If the roll-out of the Northbridge reforms is successful, consideration may be given at a later stage to expanding the changes to other areas.

Environment minister Stephen Dawson.

Environment minister Stephen Dawson said he was aware that conflicts associated with noise restrictions existed in a number of other entertainment precincts.

"If the roll-out of the Northbridge reforms is successful, consideration may be given at a later stage to expanding the changes to other areas," he said.

Mr Dawson suggested City of Mandurah chief executive Mark Newman could issue Regulation 19B approvals as an "alternative and immediate means of regulating noise from some venues".

Regulation 19B is an approval process available to venues that wish to hold events that may exceed the assigned noise levels under the noise regulations. 

Mr Newman said the city would continue to consult relevant parties to find a "workable solution for all concerned".

"When assessing the potential solutions to noise issues within the city centre, there is a range of measures that can be used," he said. 

"The city works with operators to determine which will be the most appropriate in the circumstances and could include management approaches or structural changes."