Understanding the law and how clubs operate without a license …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 15th August 2011

Business licences, trading hours and lack of enforcement were the topics of discussion when residents met with City officials to tackle noise battles in the CBD. The Long Street Residents’ Association (LSRA) requested a meeting with Councillor Dave Bryant and other roleplayers including the Central City Improvement District (CCID) to raise concerns about clubs trading without the necessary licences and causing a noise disturbance. LSRA convenor Byron Qually said after two years of complaints there was no longer a question about whether there was a noise problem. He asked why bars and nightclubs were allowed to continue operating without health and entertainment licences. He highlighted O’Driscoll’s Irish Pub in Burg Street, where the owner had been found guilty in court for causing a noise nuisance, but continued to operate.

Mr Bryant read a response given by health director, Dr Ivan Bromfield which said the City did not allow or condone business that operated without a licence despite being fined or convicted in court. “The law enforcers are, however, reliant on either successful noise level readings or affidavits from affected persons before the repeat offenders can be summonsed back to court,” Mr Bryant said. Good Hope Sub-council chairperson, Taki Amira, said many of the problems faced by the City were a result of the municipality being tasked with carrying out national legislation. “To start, we must note that in order to operate a nightclub, you need two things. A liquor licence and a health and entertainment licence. The issue is that the Business Act is national legislation and the sub-council cannot refuse applications if all the requirements are met. For instance, we receive applications for adult entertainment businesses and while we would like to reject them we can’t if they meet the requirements,” Mr Amira said. He said among the problems faced by the City was the granting of temporary liquor licences. “Once they have that they start operating. We contact law enforcement agencies who visit the premises to check if their paperwork is in order. When we find that they do not have the appropriate licences they are fined. In some cases this deters them from trading but in other cases this is petty cash for them,” he said.

CCID security manager, Muneeb Hendricks said one way in which residents could assist was by keeping an eye on liquor licence applications. “We conducted an ‘exploratory mission’ to take a look at the noise problem. “What we found is that it is often difficult to single out a club because of the ambient noise. We should look into the possibility of compiling a report for residents which looks at what they can do to help. This issue was also discussed in the Cape Town Central Community Police Forum Meeting (CPF) and it’s important to remember that residents can make objections to the Liquor Board in the granting of liquor licences to problem clubs,” he said. Burg Street resident Ashley Lillie said in his opinion the biggest problem was the lack of co-ordination between City departments dealing with noise issues. Residents also questioned the methodology used when conducting noise readings.

Geoff Madsen, one of the developers of Flatrock Suites in Loop Street said that when he first decided to develop the residential block which also consists of hotels suites he loved the idea of bars, pubs and clubs in the area. Mr Madsen invited the CapeTowner to hear the noise emanating from Chez Ntemba nightclub in August. During the visit, the CapeTowner witnessed the roof of the club lifting and heard heavy bass coming from the premises (“Noise raises the roof”, CapeTowner, August 11). “Our residents and guests support these establishments and we have no intention of closing them. All, we ask is for them to comply with the law. “Now we have to spend R2.5 million on soundproofing. We have been complaining for more than four years about a certain club and it seems our concerns have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

Mr Bryant said that after assessing the problems faced by Mr Madsen he too had some concerns. “How can a building which has a tin roof provide any kind of soundproofing,” he asked. At the meeting residents and officials also discussed the possibility of accompanying officials from the City’s Health Department when noise readings are done in the CBD as well as the possibility of funding additional law enforcement officers to inspect clubs when complaints are received.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

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The following outlines the minutes taken by the LSRA at the aforementioned meeting:

Attendees: City: Councillor David Bryant and Subcouncil Chair Taki Amira
City Health Department: Lavinia Petersen and colleague
CCID: Mo Hendricks
CapeTowner: Monique Duval
LSRA: Approximately 10 individuals.

Document provided by the City Health Department on the LSRA questions:

Why are bars still able to operate knowingly without a license?

No answer provided.

Why are convicted bars owners allowed to continue with their illegal behaviour?

Some operators continue despite being fined or convicted in an court of law. The City does not allow or condone this type of behaviour. The law enforcers are, however, reliant on either successful noise level readings or affidavits from affected persons before the repeat offenders can be summonsed back to court.

Since 2009, what systems have the City Health Department introduced to assist residents with noise concerns?

The City enforces the Noise Control Regulations which allow for offenders to be fined in terms of exceeding the allowable noise limits and/ or to be summonsed to a court of law. The following systems are currently in place:
– Procedure for summonsing an alleged offender to court via the ‘noise nuisance” procedure in terms of the Noise Control Regulations. This procedure is based on affidavits from affected persons.
– Procedure for summonsing an offender to court when exceeding the noise limits – ‘causing a disturbing noise’. This procedure is based on successful noise level readings.
– Mandatory soundproofing via the Business licensing system.
– Arrangements for combined actions from various Departments are in place. Examples of these are where City Health with Law Enforcement or even SAPS. The CIDS are also included — especially on night-time surveys.
– Availability of staff in the Western district for night inspections increased from once every 6 weeks to every two weeks. This is especially useful where complainants do not want to provide affidavits.
– Increased the level of health court action against premises trading without business licences.
– Agreement reached that health would be informed of all complaints regarding noise that is received from the Call Centres. (Shannon and myself would receive and interrogate and forward as needed if action from City Health is needed – still in infancy and needs refinement as we have only received 6 complaints so far.)
– Regular meeting are held with all role-players involved in enforcement and legal actions where it relates to unlicensed business premises to enable better co-ordination and clear frames of reference.

Primary actions from the meeting:

– CCID and City: Exploring the option of a full time and dedicated sound task team, who are trained and authorised to intervene in noise disputes when they occur at night.
– City Health Department: To provide noise measurement test specifications, test procedure and acoustic report to the LSRA, and to invite members to a testing session.
– CCID: Provide a digital copy of their brochure on noise awareness to the LSRA for posting on the website.

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