OPINION: Noise complaint gets tuned out

Everyone has a noise they hate. Mine is barking dogs.

Still, I can’t dredge up much sympathy for the lone music critic whose noise complaint could have derailed the outdoor concert series at Paddy Flaherty’s.

In recent years the Irish pub on Seaway Road has lured some remarkably high-end talent to its patio stage.

Juno Award winners and nominees like Elliott Brood, Lee Harvey Osmond, The Strumbellas and Royal Wood have added something to the warm summer nights on Sarnia Bay. Even The Sheepdogs, who, despite their name, sound nothing like barking dogs, have played Paddy’s patio.

The folks next door at Stokes Bay also have an excellent outdoor music series. The Summer Never Ends concert on Aug. 22 features Chantal Kreviazuk with Emm Gryner, Leah Daniels and Stacey Zegers. That’s an impressive lineup to play the front lawn of a restaurant.

Last time I checked no one lived anywhere near the two Seaway Road venues, surrounded as they are by water, parkland and industrial grain elevators. The nearest would be the condo towers on the east side of Front Street, half a kilometre away.

Be that as it may, someone complained to city hall recently about music coming from Seaway Road, and that prompted Paddy’s to seek an emergency noise bylaw exemption from city hall.

At stake were five weekend concerts in August, including the likes of Friendlyness and the Human Rights, a reggae outfit fronted by the lead singer from Big Sugar, and Murder Mouse Blues Band from Australia, set to play during the Powerboat Festival.

On July 21, city councillors sidestepped their own rules, waived the required 14-day notification period, and rubber-stamped Paddy’s request.

“Why do we even bother to have a bylaw when basically if anybody requests (an) exemption (he or she) gets it?” asked Coun. Andy Bruziewicz.

The rules don’t include a decibel level above which reasonable sound becomes unreasonable noise, making it difficult to know what’s acceptable, he added, not unreasonably.

Coun. Anne Marie Gillis said more people are living downtown and when bands get exuberant and play past midnight “that’s when the problems start.”

The defunct Bayfest music festival was a much bigger beast that really did blast residents around Centennial Park. Those who waited for the annual band date release to book their vacations far from Sarnia weren’t sorry to see it go.

At any rate, Paddy’s concerts will proceed with the conditions the sound gets lowered after 11:30 p.m. and the bands quit at midnight sharp.

And if that doesn’t keep Paddy’s music critic happy, I know of some barking dogs I’d be pleased to share.

– George Mathewson