Cutting live music
Nova Scotia liquor board prohibits amplified music at Timber Lounge following complaints.
on live music has a local business owner wondering “where is music allowed in Halifax?” Due to multiple noise complaints, The Timber Lounge (2712 Agricola Street) is no longer permitted to host amplified shows. (Acoustic performances are still allowed.)
Co-owner Marc Chisholm says the axethrowing bar previously made an agreement with the province’s Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division to stop all live music after 11pm. Two weeks ago, Chisholm was presented with a letter stating that further restrictions were placed on the lounge’s liquor license.
Chisholm believes most of the noise complaints are coming from one individual who lives a few doors down. “Section 29 of the liquor act is ‘personal enjoyment,’” he says, referring to the “quiet enjoyment” conditions. “So if a venue is affecting your personal enjoyment of your life, which is somewhat subjective, then they have the right to complain.”
Chisholm points out that while live music isn’t the Timber Lounge’s “bread and butter,” the restrictions do impact the arts community. There’s “more demand for stages” than what’s available in Halifax, he says. “Unfortunately, with the liquor board being able to pull your license really any time that someone complains, it makes it difficult going forward to invest a lot of money in soundproofing.” But Chisholm emphasizes that his beef isn’t with the liquor board itself: “They were put in a tough situation. They had to do something.”
Marla MacInnis, spokesperson for Services Nova Scotia (which includes AGFT), says the division works “as a mediator to mitigate concerns. When we receive a complaint, we contact the complainant and the licensee,” she explains via email. “Typically, we conduct a focused inspection and investigate for any non-compliance issues. If no concerns are identified, we close the matter. If concerns are observed, we work with both parties to mediate a resolution.”
Chisholm says he expected to have a chance to meet with the complainant, but that didn’t happen.
According to MacInnis, AGFT received “multiple complaints from three individuals” since August 2016. The Timber Lounge was originally granted a license without restrictions in April 2016. In June 2017, AGFT added nine restrictions, including the condition that all live music must cease by 11pm, with the exception of New Year’s Eve. On November 23 further restrictions were added, prohibiting all live amplified entertainment and percussion instruments.
MacInnis notes that if the business disagrees with the restriction, it can appeal to the Utility and Review Board. Timber’s plan is to wait for the new year to take another stab at hosting live music. Chisholm aims to crowdfund to cover the costs of further soundproofing— something he hopes will allow the restriction to be lifted. “I hope the public weighs in a little bit and, you know, says if the Timber Lounge puts in an extra effort for soundproofing,” he says, “then they should be allowed to play music again.”