Post-lockdown noise complaint threatens Manchester’s Night & Day venue – but they’re not alone

A petition to save the venue has received nearly 15,000 signatures – but there's been a spate of complaints across the country by residents who moved in during lockdown unaware of noise levels

Manchester’s legendary Night & Cafe are appealing for support after being threatened by noise complaints – but this is just the latest in a spate of them to come about since reopening after lockdown.

The legendary music spot, which was saved after a hard-fought battle against a noise complaint back in 2014 and is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary this weekend, has today taken to social media to rally support after receiving a notice from the council to reportedly claim they were “a noise nuisance”.

“Since lockdown and as restrictions have been lifted, we have gradually returned back to what we do – being a small independent live music venue,” they wrote on a petition calling for help and signatures. “Over the past few months we’ve been really encouraged by having live music events on six nights a week – back to what it was pre-COVID.

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“During lockdown a new resident moved to Manchester and to a property that’s within close proximity to the venue. As the restrictions lifted and life returned to the surrounding Northern Quarter area, we were able to put on our first live music event. The resident visited us the next day and has since reported us to MCC a number of times. We have met the resident a number of times to explain what we do and that nothing has changed operationally to how we operated pre-lock down and the 28 years prior to that.

The venue added that they were pleading with Manchester City Council Licensing to “remove our Noise Abatement Notice and for the Council to address the real issue here which is that housing with ill-considered planning and construction has been approved and built next to a pre-existing live music business”.

The petition has already received nearly tens of thousands of signatures and support from the likes of Johnny Marr, New Order, Courteeners, Frank Turner and Mogwai, as well as the network of the UK’s grassroots music venues. The CharlatansTim Burgess, who was instrumental in saving Manchester’s Gorilla and Deaf Institute through the pandemic, told NME why it was essential to fight back against this complaint.

“Music venues are essential for our nighttime economy and for the development of artists who will then tour the world and sell millions of records – they are vital for our towns and cities,” Burgess told NME. “Years and even decades after they opened, people are moving nearby and complaining about the noise. We need to get a grip of this daft situation. And it’s not just music venues – record shops are facing the same issue.

“The joke being that these city centre residents are often the ones showing off to their friends about the culture that surrounds them. We need to support our live music venues, not threaten them with closure.”

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The Charlatans
The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess. CREDIT: Getty Images.

The Music Venue Trust told NME that this had become somewhat of a trend, and that there had been more than 40 noise complaints against UK grassroots music venues since reopening in July.

“With the exception of one case, all relate to complaints that the venue had resumed its normal operation; no new hours, no change of music, no increase in volume,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd told NME. “Just that it was quiet for a bit in a noisy area and now it isn’t. Over half the complaints are from new residents who have moved into a known thriving and vibrant area during lockdown and appear to have only just discovered what that means.”

He continued: “Is Manchester a music city or a retirement village? This is one of a raft of absurd new complaints lodged by people who apparently think it’s OK to move near to venues during a pandemic and complain when they reopen. Every noise complaint costs the venue money to defend and defeat.

“It’s time the complaints process was changed so that obviously ludicrous complaints such as this, against a venue celebrating 30 years of business, can be immediately dismissed or the venue financially recompensed for being forced to prove that the cause of the ‘nuisance’ is the new resident’s decision to move next to it.”

One other venue to currently be dealing with a noise complaint made by a resident who moved into the area during lockdown is the beloved Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff.

“We are on Womanby Street, which is the music hub of Cardiff I would say,” venue boss Angie Evans told NME. “We have two grassroots venues next door to each other with The Moon and us, but we also have Bootleg above us who play jazz and blues, and then opposite us we have Clwb Ifor Bach, which is an iconic three-storey live music venue.

“There’s a lot going on generally, but we do have a complaint that’s ongoing at the moment. That’s from a block of flats behind us that essentially has the sound from three venues going up there. Crucially, this is from people who moved in over lockdown when there was all peace and quiet in the city. It did happen as soon as we opened after lockdown – it was practically the first weekend of live music.”

She went on: “I think this sort of thing is happening everywhere. It’s been quiet and people have gotten used to that, or they’ve moved around during lockdown and they didn’t realise how noisy it was. We’re very established businesses on Womanby Street, and I think that’s helped our cause in a way.”

Evans said that she was “understanding” and appreciated that there was a lot of noise coming from the venues, but called for more to be done to protect venues that had been operating for years.

“Most people who live there have done so for over six years and are used to it, but I am understanding to the fact that they might not have realised the noise when they moved in, their landlord might not have told them. It is difficult and I realise that,” she continued.

“We always do what we can to limit the noise. For instance, we have a 12am licence for live music but we always finish at 11pm, primarily for the neighbours and their sanity. We always keep our doors closed and we looked at doing an alteration in size to try and help the noise travel.”

With the help of the Music Venue Trust, Evans said that they’d continue to push back against the complaint with the rest of the venues in the area.

“We have a really good relationship with Cardiff Castle,” she added. “I think they see that music is the lifeblood of the city. They’ve been very supportive and have taken a stance that’s understanding of both sides, which is the right way to look at it.”

Johnny Marr, ex of The Smiths, performs with his son Nile Marr and his band Man Made including bass player Callum Rogers at The Night And Day Cafe in Manchester (Photo by Visionhaus#GP/Corbis via Getty Images)
Johnny Marr, ex of The Smiths, performs with his son Nile Marr and his band Man Made including bass player Callum Rogers at The Night And Day Cafe in Manchester (Photo by Visionhaus#GP/Corbis via Getty Images)

Responding to the noise complaint issues raised by the Night & Day Cafe, a Manchester City Council spokesperson told NME that the venue was “not threatened with closure”.

“A Noise Abatement Notice (NAN) has been issued following complaints of excessive noise,” they said. “A NAN cannot be used to close a venue, it is used to prevent continued noise nuisance.

“Following a number of repeated complaints from residents living nearby the Council investigated allegations of excessive noise coming from Night and Day. During these visits the Council’s officers found that noise levels were causing a nuisance. The Council has a duty to investigate complaints of noise nuisance and where a statutory nuisance is found to have occurred, the Council is under a duty to serve an Abatement Notice on the person responsible.”

They continued: “The Council has on multiple occasions tried to engage with this venue to try and reach a solution which works both for them, and residents. In spite of this further issues were reported, which meant the Council was left with no option other than to issue a NAN.

“The venue is entitled to appeal this Notice, and we would encourage them to work with the Council to avoid any future enforcement action.”

Meanwhile, this week saw The Music Venue Trust named as our charity partner for the upcoming BandLab NME Awards 2022.

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